cover image Double Trio

Double Trio

Nathaniel Mackey. New Directions, $65 (1,068p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3062-9

This massive, three-volume box set is not for the casual Mackey (Blue Fasa) reader: each of the three books is what the National Book Award–winning poet considers a “double book.” Mackey’s poetry is rooted in jazz (the book is structured in part after three movements of John Coltrane’s Meditations) and dwells in a space where meaning shines out of improvisational linguistic repetition: “Was it time or a particular time/ we wanted out of, time itself tainted, never/ not/ particular, time’s particularity the rope/ we were caught by.” Breath is a motif throughout; blowing, as one would an instrument, transforms into “blows to the head, as we blew... Hands up, wind-/pipes crushed, we blew” (“So’s Notice”). The poem is about the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and offers an eerie presentiment to the killing of George Floyd. Mackey’s poems are centered on the page, the spaces between his loose tercets and quatrains linked with single-word lines that thread the stanzas together. These poems are epic meditations that transform and transcend the everyday into an otherworldly, timeless space. (Apr.)