Whatsaid Serif

Overview

Whatsaid Serif, Nathaniel Mackey’s third book of poems, is comprised of installments sixteen through thirty-five of Song of the Andoumboulou, an ongoing serial work whose first fifteen installments appear in Eroding Witness and School of Udhra, his two previous books. Named after a Dogon funeral song whose raspy tonalities prelude rebirth, Song of the Andoumboulou has from its inception tracked interweavings of lore and livid apprehension, advancing this weave as its own sort of rasp. These twenty new ...

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Overview

Whatsaid Serif, Nathaniel Mackey’s third book of poems, is comprised of installments sixteen through thirty-five of Song of the Andoumboulou, an ongoing serial work whose first fifteen installments appear in Eroding Witness and School of Udhra, his two previous books. Named after a Dogon funeral song whose raspy tonalities prelude rebirth, Song of the Andoumboulou has from its inception tracked interweavings of lore and livid apprehension, advancing this weave as its own sort of rasp. These twenty new installments evoke the what-sayer of Kakapalo storying practice as a figure for the rough texture of such interweaving. Mackey has suggested that the Andoumboulou, a failed, earlier form of human being in Dogon cosmology, are “a rough draft of human being,” that “the Andoumboulou are in fact us; we're the rough draft.” The song is of possibility, yet to be fulfilled, aspiration’s putative self.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mackey's third book of poems continues the exquisite "Song of the Andouboulou" cycle inaugurated in his first book, Eroding Witness, and continued through his second, 1993's School of Udhra, also published by City Lights. With a poetic line that is syncopated and improvisational, yet balanced in an elegant, nearly classical style, Mackey sets out on a terrifying, inspiring spiritual quest, taking on cultural displacement and the ruins of communal identity. Like Eliot, Mackey is an elegist for a lost culture, but his historical fracture is not industrialized Europe, but the Middle Passage. Taking up the phenomenon of syncretism (the reemergence of African traditions in the New World after centuries of total suppression), Mackey creates a language that pun-fully subverts the language of Western myth: "C'rash it became, he said next. / C'rib went on putting its / tongue to what ears would listen./ B'Us was the craft we rode,/ it kept assuring us, name/ not even/ we could arrest?" Even the basic act of pronominal identification is rendered strange: "He to him, she to her, they to them,/ opaque/ pronouns, `persons' whether or not we/ knew who they were?" While refusing to tell his stories straight ("Sound/ raveling sound calling itself eternity. No known locale/ though names accrue"), Mackey's raspy, rebus-like cultural resurfacings are both beautiful to read and worthy of repeated efforts at comprehension. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872863415
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

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