PAUL METCALF

Writer-in-Residence

October 8, 1997 (Wednesday) at 8:00 p.m.
Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
University at Albany

4:00 p.m. Afternoon Seminar, Humanities 290

Published in limited edition by small idealistic presses throughout his career, Paul Metcalf has nonetheless attracted a loyal following, including such fans as Robert Creeley, William Gass, Wendell Berry, and Guy Davenport (who has contributed the introduction to the series). Metcalf’s reevaluation of our history, his exploration of our multi-ethnic roots, and his ecological concerns, make his work especially timely as we near the end of the twentieth century.

Paul Metcalf is an original, in the mode of another great New Englander, Charles Ives, who carved out a successful business career in New York, while composing songs and symphonies that presaged most of the major movements in twentieth century classical music. Like Ives, Metcalf had to create and entirely new way of writing in order to present his vision of his lifelong subject, the New World, a fascination both composer and writer shared.

After a brief stint at Harvard University, Metcalf set out to develop his own authentic style. Inspired by the use of varied sources in Ezra Pound’s Cantos and William Carlos Williams’ Paterson; influenced by his life-long friend, Josef Alberts, whom he met at Black Mountain College, Metcalf began to incorporate historical and cultural matter, fiction, and other comments into his books. The result is an innovative and unique presentation and interpretation of our American heritage, a treasure of the literary community and incredibly intentive reading. Volume One of the Coffee House Press edition includes the complete texts of his early, formative novel, Will West; his monumental breakthrough, Genoa; the quirky Patagoni; the lyrical Apalache; and perhaps his darkest book, The Middle Passage.

“A unique work of historical and literary imagination, eloquent and powerful. I know of nothing like it.” - Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

"My excitement and pleasure is such that I would like to emphasize here my very great respect for Paul Metcalf's writing, and the unique significance of its publication.... Much like his great-grandfather, Herman Melville, Paul Metcalf brings an extraordinary diversity of material into the complex patterns of analogy and metaphor, to affect a common term altogether brilliant in its imagination." - Robert Creeley

CITATION FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY AND INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND LETTERS, MORTON DAUWEN ZABEL AWARD: "One of several great-grandchildren of Herman Melville, Paul Metcalf brilliantly accounted his great forebear in his first major book, Genoa. In succeeding works The Middle Passage, Apalache, Waters of Potowmack, and Firebird, Metcalf originated a genre of fiction which includes a montage of historic New World documentation mixed with poetry, an original mode of imaginative composition."

Paul Metcalf 's works have been anthologized in The American Equation: Literature in a Multi-Ethnic Culture and The Moderns; his publishers include some of America's finest literary presses--The Jargon Society, Turtle Island, North Point Press, and Dalkey Archive. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California San Diego, SUNY at Albany, and the University of Kansas.

Will West - “The clutch of fact and fiction, the coherence Metcalf manages in setting one thing beside another. . .he is an original. The voice is authentic and piercing.” - William Corbett


Genoa - “It presented Metcalf’s truest concern: the juxtaposition of apparently disparate materials into an imaginative frame. . .Metcalf welded together a work that is as dense and brilliant as anything written in America in the last fifty years.” - John O’Brien, The American Book Review


Patagoni - “Patagoni is a geographical historical statement. . .The Book has a musical and topological quality . . .Metcalf is a writer of spaces, not words.” - The Phoenix

Apalache and The Middle Passage - Apalache is a highly individual vision of America. . .nothing could have prepared me for this astonishingly original work.” - Carll Tucker, The Village Voice

“One of the most unique voices . . . Middle Passages belongs to our communal history. . .Apalache is an epic poem/history/geography. It is moving and it teaches.” - The San Francisco Review of Books

Writers Online Magazine Article