Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey

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Synopsis

In a stunning new collection of poems of transport and transcendence, African-American poet Nathaniel Mackey's "asthmatic song of aspiration" scuttles across cultures and histories—from America to Andalucía, from Ethiopia to Vienna—in a sexy, beautiful adaptive dance.

Part antiphonal rant, part rhythmic whisper, Nathaniel Mackey's new collection of poems, Splay Anthem, takes the reader to uncharted poetic spaces. Divided into three sections—"Braid," "Fray," and "Nub" (one referent Mackey notes in his stellar Introduction: "the imperial, flailing republic of Nub the United States has become, the shrunken place the earth has become, planet Nub")—Splay Anthem weaves together two ongoing serial poems Mackey has been writing for over twenty years, Song of the Andoumboulou and "Mu" (though "mu no more itself / than Andoumboulou").

In the cosmology of the Dogon of West Africa, the Andoumboulou are progenitor spirits, and the song of the Andoumboulou is a song addressed to the spirits, a funeral song, a song of rebirth. "Mu," too, splays with meaning: muni bird, Greek muthos, a Sun Ra tune, a continent once thought to have existed in the Pacific. With the vibrancy of a Miró painting, Mackey's poems trace the lost tribe of "we" through waking and dreamtime, through a multitude of geographies, cultures, histories, and musical traditions, as poetry here serves as the intersection of everything, myth's music, spirit lift.
 

About Nathaniel Mackey

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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.
 
Published May 30, 2006 by New Directions. 112 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Splay Anthem

Publishers Weekly

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Published in installments across several decades, Mackey's two epic series—one called Mu, the other Song of the Andoumboulou—bring the attitudes of free jazz and the reverberating patterns of West African ensemble music to the goals of the American encyclopedic long poem à la Charles Olson.

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Project MUSE

Mackey’s exuberant cultural appetite runs from experimental American poetry to history, linguistics, anthropology, and ethnomusicology.

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