Paul Metcalf, Volume II

Collected Works of Paul Metcalf, 1976–1986

June 1, 1997 • 6.5 x 9.5 • 600 pages • 978-1-56689-056-4

American history reimagined by Herman Melville’s great grandson, a Black Mountain poet. A stunning achievement.

Coffee House Press continues the publication of the complete collected works of Paul Metcalf with the release of Volume II in the series. This volume includes hilarious scandalous tales of the founding of Washington, D.C., harrowing vignettes of wounded Civil War soldiers, and poetic tributes to Willie Mays, Edgar Allen Poe, John Wilkes Booth, and the quirky names of America’s small towns. This volume is comprised of the complete texts of I-57, Zip Odes, Willie’s Throw, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Both, The Island, and Waters of Potowmack.

Published in limited editions throughout his career by small idealistic presses, Metcalf has nonetheless attracted a loyal following, including such fans as Robert Creeley, William Gass, Wendell Berry, and Guy Davenport. His reevaluation of our history, his exploration of our multiethnic roots, and his ecological concerns make his work especially timely as we near the end of the twentieth century.

About the Author

Paul Metcalf (1917–1999) was an American writer and the great-grandson of Herman Melville. His three volume Collected Works were published by Coffee House Press in 1996.


“In his method, Metcalf reminds us that the world is endlessly interesting; whatever is gleaned, even the strange or banal, matters to a story largely taken up in the interstices. An epic may be constructed solely out of place names from the 1968 U.S. Postal Service Zip Code Directory (Zip Odes); 19th-century mustachioed actors and any number of other associations may connect the stories of Poe and John Wilkes Booth . . . all of it threatening to overcome any notion of a legitimate, received history. Metcalf’s project has been solitary and glacial in its undertaking, but readers would be at a series deficit with out.” Library Journal

“The second installment in an invaluable three-volume collections of a neglected American original presents seven of Metcalf’s inspired and spirited textual collages. Deeply immersed in American history and the paradoxes of our culture, Metcalf stretches narrative beyond traditional limits in an attempt to give voice to the cacophony of the past, the clamoring of the present, and the mind’s quicksilver processing of memory, thought, and fantasy. To that end, his writing is boldly improvisational and sporadically surreal, sparking with shifting emotions and perspectives.” Booklist