Splay Anthem

Nathaniel Mackey, Author . New Directions $15.95 (126p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1652-4

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. 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)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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