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About this poet

Poet and novelist Nathaniel Mackey was born in 1947 in Miami, Florida. He received a BA degree from Princeton University and a PhD from Stanford University.

His books of poetry include Nod House (New Directions, 2011); Splay Anthem (2006), which won the 2006 National Book Award in Poetry; Whatsaid Serif (1998); Song of the Andoumboulou: 18-20 (1994); School of Udhra (1993); Outlantish (1992); Eroding Witness (1985), which was selected for the National Poetry Series; Septet for the End of Time (1983); and Four for Trane (1978).

He is also the author of an ongoing prose work, From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, of which four volumes have been published: Bass Cathedral (New Directions, 2008), Atet A. D. (2001), Djbot Baghostus's Run (1993), and Bedouin Hornbook (1986), the first three of which are collected in From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate: Volumes 1-3 (2010).

The poet Robin Blaser has called Mackey's work "a brilliant renewal of and experiment with the language of our spiritual condition and a measure of what poetry gives in trust—'heart's/meat' and the rush of language to bear it."

Also a critic and literary theorist, Mackey is the author of Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993). He is the editor of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century (2000, with Carolyn Kizer, John Hollander, Robert Hass, and Marjorie Perloff) and Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (1993, with Art Lange). He also edits the magazine Hambone. In 1995, Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25, a compact disc recording of poems read with musical accompaniment, was released.

Nathaniel Mackey has received numerous awards including a Whiting Writer’s Award and a 2010 Guggenheim fellowship. He is the Reynolds Price Professor of English at Duke University and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007. Mackey currently lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Song of the Andoumboulou: 50

Nathaniel Mackey

-ring of the well-                        


Fray was the name where we came
to next. Might've been a place,
might not've been a place but
we were there, came to it
                                             sooner
than we could se... Come to
so soon, it was a name we stuck
pins in hoping we'd stay. Stray
was all we ended up with. Spar
was another name we heard
                           it
went by... Rasp we also heard it
                                                was
called...          Came to it sooner
than we could see but soon enough
saw we were there. Some who'd
come before us called it Bray...

Sound's own principality it was, a
pocket of air flexed mouthlike,
meaning's mime and regret, a squib of
something said, so intent it
seemed. At our backs a blown
                                             conch,
bamboo flute, trapic remnant,
                                                   Lone
Coast reconnoiter come up empty
but for that,          a first, forgotten
warble trafficked in again even so,
                                             the
mango seed's reminder sent to what
end we'd eventually see...

                              We had
Come thru there before we were
told. Others claiming to be us had
come thru... The ubiquitous two lay
bound in cloth come down from on
                                                               high,
hoping it so, twist of their raiment
                                                         steep

integument, emollient feel for what
might not have been there. Head in the
clouds he'd have said of himself,
                                                         she'd
have said elsewhere, his to be above and
below, not know or say, hers to be
alibi, elegy otherwise known...

have said elsernrheren

Above and below, limbo what fabric
intervened. Limbo the bending they moved
in between. Limbo the book of
                                                      the
bent knee... Antiphonal thread
attended by thread. Keening string
by thrum, inwardness, netherness...
                                                         Violin
strings tied their hair high, limbo
the headrags they wore... The admission
of cloth that it was cover, what
was imminent out of reach,                   given
                                                            what
went for real, unreal,                                          

                           split,
silhouetted                                          
redress                                                      

"Song of the Andoumboulou: 50" from Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey, copyright © 2006 by Nathaniel Mackey. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey

Born in 1947 in Miami, Florida, poet and novelist Nathaniel Mackey was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007.

by this poet

poem

—“mu” ninety-eighth part—


Remembered moment lamenting
  its exit, the anaphylactic aria
fell away. What beauty promised or
  we projected faded, we moved
                                          on,
  not’s province the place we
now camped in… The abandoned

poem
  Next a Brazilian cut came
on Sophia picked. Paulinho's
 voice lit our way for what
    seemed eternity, 
                             minha
   primeira vez the one
                                phrase
  we caught or could understand,
    no matter it ended
soon as it'd begun
poem
"mu" fifth part —

  His they their
we, their he
 his was but if
need be one,
                    self-
  extinguishing
I, neither sham nor
 excuse yet an
alibi, exited, 
                  out, 
                         else
the only where
 he'd be. 

              Before
the long since
  remaindered