Nod House

Nathaniel Mackey. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1946-4
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.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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