Synopses & Reviews
With Nathaniel Mackey's fifth collection of poems, , we witness a confluence of music and meaning unprecedented in American poetry. Mackey's art continues to push the envelope of what is possible to map and remap through words in sounds and sounds in words. Picking up with Nub's disintegration at the end of his previous collection -- the National Book Award-winning -- we follow a traveler and a tribe of travelers ensconced in myth and history as Mackey continues to weave his precisely measured music with two ongoing serial poems, Song of the Andoumboulou and Mu. The collec- tion is divided into two sections, both titled "Quag," and it is this double-Quag ("Nub's new colony Quag" or Qraq or Ouab'da or Quaph . . .) that the tribe is exiled in, worlds within alternate worlds where names and places are ever-shifting, and dreamlessness reigns. From the pyramids to the projects, Ivory Coast to Lone Coast, Lagos to Stick City, amidst chorusing horns and star-spar lightning, Nod House ("Nub's / new / address") unfolds as gorgeous eulogy, copla-cuts of deep song, the long elegiac march of "day after day of the dead."
"Mackey's last poetry collection, Splay Anthem, won the National Book Award, and this 16th collection (if one counts prose and verse together) picks up his musical epics in medias res. It is not necessary, however, to track all the characters and their histories in order to immerse oneself in the book's worlds. Readers need only remember that the Free Jazz scene that began in the late 1950s and early 1960s had deep roots in revolutionary political thought as well as revolutionary musical constructs, and that it was a complex inheritance for those, like Mackey's characters, who tried to take it up in the postmodern aftermath of its first flowerings. The characters' frustrations, which Mackey makes epically metaphorical (the book's musical microcosm as full-scale political macrocosm) with the very lightest of touches and the very greatest of poetic artistry, make for extremely satisfying reading, immersive, and even life-changing: 'A story the story/ bit its lip on... It wasn't that/ what there was was/ what could be thought,/ wasn't what could be thought/ was what could be said... Thought/ was what there was's fallback,/ say, so we thought, the same.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"In oblique, elliptical fashion, these poems follow the dispersal of African peoples by half a millennium of catastrophes, from slavery to Hurricane Katrina...Mackey's almost mythological conception has its origins in his previous collection, "Splay Anthem," which won a National Book ward in 2006. But no prior knowledge is required, as the logic is surreal and the characters keep circling back to "square one."" The New Yorker
A stellar new collection of poems by "the Balanchine of the architecture dance" (The New York Times) and winner of the 2006 National Book Award in poetry.
About the Author
Nathaniel Mackey (b. 1942), is the author of books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, editor of the Literary Jounal Hambone, and radio show host. His collection, Splay Anthem, won the 2006 National Book Award for Poetry. He is also on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, and is Professor of Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz.