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Although an African American poem about the transatlantic slave trade, Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage” (1945; rev. 1962) paradoxically draws on an array of white writings to shape its vision, using compositional strategies indebted to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). The adoption of such an intertextual and interracial poetics is daringly provocative when considered in terms of the poem’s shifting literaryI, cultural and political contexts. As well as implicitly casting the younger author as Eliot’s equal, it locates his poem in dramatic tension with the segregationist structures of 1940s’ America and the purist dicta of the 1960s’ Black Aesthetic.