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 Andalucia, 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 Miro 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.