cover image Blue Fasa

Blue Fasa

Nathaniel Mackey. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2445-1

Mackey, winner of the 2006 National Book Award for poetry, “continues Nod House’s continuation of Splay Anthem and the work that came before it” as he extends two interwoven and ongoing serial poems: Song of Andoumboulou and “Mu. Commanding in their cerebral and musical reach, the poems do not require knowledge of previous installments, though hints to the themes here are found in the collection’s title, which references the West African griot tradition and jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s song “Blue Bossa.” Mackey’s epic mode is one in which place, time, and personae collide and shapeshift, rendering a definitive origin or conclusion somewhat irrelevant. Indeed, this collection opens with a fraying of the self, first pulled apart by love, as the bereft narrator laments, “Insofar, this/ was to say, as there was an I it was/ no other, of late letting go no getting/ out. I saw myself I saw, no parallel/ track.” The “Insofar-I” construction reverberates throughout as quasimythic travelers are shaped and taken apart by forces personal, historical, environmental, and metaphysical. What exists always exists in relationship to its negation, opening an elastic space in which form and dissolution maintain a fast-paced, flexible dialectic dance. Mackey tracks a knowledge “gone by the time we heard/ it, galactic light’s late arrival/ an acoustic stand-in, light-year-like/ but shrunken. Moment’s remit/ an/ odd sonic perfume.” The book itself follows in this pattern of continual departures, sustained in Mackey’s remarkable erudition and singular lyric virtuosity. (May)