Splay Anthem

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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.

Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 a la Charles Olson. The mysterious, even hermetic, new verse extends both of Mackey's epics, even (as his prose foreword explains) merging them, so that they form one enormous text describing a mystical quest. Mackey's figures seek the source of inspiration, and his dense stanzas track their uneven progress; "We" pursue it, by foot, train or boat, into realms of fable and myth, via chants, archival and esoteric references, portmanteau words and archeological research. "Atless" (that is, lost without a map) and given to interjections like "wuh," Mackey's crew crosses the "City of Lag" on the "Not Yet Express," as the poet himself sends his spirit "up/ Unreal Street unstrung" in search of new sounds and rituals. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Three sections ("Braid," "Fray," and "Nub") continuing two serial poems ("Song of the Andoumboulou" and "Mu") that have been appearing over the last two decades here add up to one National Book Award winner. This rich, rhythmic account of the Dogon cosmology of West Africa makes for nonstop reading. (LJ8/06)


—Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal
Comprising the continuation of two ongoing serial poems, Song of the Andoumboulou and "Mu," this engrossing new work recounts the cosmology of the Dogon of West Africa in rich, rhythmic language. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811216524
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 5/5/2006
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathaniel Mackey was born in Miami, Florida in 1947, and grew up in California. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including a Whiting Writer's Award in 1993 and election to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2001. His work has been widely anthologized, and he is the author of several books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. He edits the literary journal Hambone and co-edited the anthology Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose. A recording of his poems read with musical accompaniment was released in 1995—Strick (Spoken Engine Co.). Mackey is currently Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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Table of Contents

I Braid
Andoumboulouous brush 3
Beginning with lines by Anwar Naguib 8
"He and she sat stacked row on ..." 11
"Manipulable hope turned endless ..." 13
Spectral escort 14
Lag anthem 17
"Newly arrived : arrayed in ..." 20
Song of the Andoumboulou : 40 21
"Dark wintry room they lay shivering ..." 24
Eye on the scarecrow 25
Song of the Andoumboulou : 42 29
"So that B'Head called hard rock pillow, ..." 31
"Premature rebirth, fake book of the ..." 33
Go left out of Shantiville 34
Song of the Andoumboulou : 44 36
"A region of hills it was we came ..." 39
"Others called it namesake serenade, ..." 40
"A thorn caught in the horn's ..." 42
"It was a night nowhere near where ..." 43
Glenn on monk's mountain 44
Song of the Andoumboulou : 46 46
"Prodigal rift an aroused we tossed ..." 49
(brayed) 50
"It was a tale told many times over, ..." 51
II Fray
Sound and semblance 55
Song of the Andoumboulou : 48 57
"B'Hest had hold of us, no ..." 60
"Sat elbows-to-knees on the sidewalk, ..." 62
"Udhrite arrest echoed Udhrite ..." 63
On antiphon island 64
Song of the Andoumboulou : 50 66
"Tore the earth and tore the air ..." 73
Song of the Andoumboulou : 51 74
"And so withstood it : stood, insofar as ..." 76
"To ride was a well gone to too often, a ..." 80
Song of the Andoumboulou : 52 81
"Lift and being lowered he meant by ..." 83
"Brusque encumbrance unaccounted ..." 85
Sound and sentience 86
Sigh of the Moor 88
"Sought their shadows in heaven, ..." 90
"It wasn't that all things pass, ..." 92
Song of the Andoumboulou : 55 93
Song of the Andoumboulou : 56 95
"Dried up if so much as looked at, dreamtime ..." 99
"Abstract canvas, earth tones notwithstanding ..." 101
"A worked awkwardness ran us over. 'We ...'" 102
Dread lakes aperture 103
"On a lit canvas what could've been ..." 105
III Nub
Song of the Andoumboulou : 58 109
"Wrung water from a sawed-off branch, ..." 111
"What of us wouldn't carry caught ..." 114
Sound and cerement 115
"It was getting to be the end again, ..." 119
Song of the Andoumboulou : 60 120
"A first unfallen church of what might've ..." 122
"Nub no longer stood but lay and we ..." 126
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