Middle Passage is a long, dramatic poem about the slave trade by the late Robert Hayden (1913 - 1980), a former poet laureate. If you click through to the poem you will find Hayden reading. His voice brings great depth to the words, deep sonority, powerful rhythms. It tells the story of the Amistad.
Hayden wrote it in the 1940's after reading much about the slave trade. From 1976-1978 he was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. The Michigan English professor was the first African-American poet so honored. Yesterday was the 102d anniversary of his birth. - gwc
by Robert Hayden
Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,
sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;
horror the corposant and compass rose.
voyage through death
to life upon these shores.
“10 April 1800—
Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says
their moaning is a prayer for death,
ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves.
Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter
to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.”
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home
black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,
of his bones New England pews are made,
those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus Saviour Pilot Me
Over Life’s Tempestuous Sea