Mackey in Cork, Ireland, The song of the Andoumboulou is one of striving, strain, abrasion, an all but asthmatic song of aspiration. Mackey is also inspired by an avant-garde lineage of poets ranging from William Carlos Williams to Robert Duncan, as well as by his friends, the poets Fred Moten and Ed Roberson. Born in Florida in and raised in a working-class family in Southern California, Mackey attended Princeton to study math and instead turned to poetry. Afterward, he studied at Stanford, where he earned a Ph.
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Mackey in Cork, Ireland, The song of the Andoumboulou is one of striving, strain, abrasion, an all but asthmatic song of aspiration. Mackey is also inspired by an avant-garde lineage of poets ranging from William Carlos Williams to Robert Duncan, as well as by his friends, the poets Fred Moten and Ed Roberson.
Born in Florida in and raised in a working-class family in Southern California, Mackey attended Princeton to study math and instead turned to poetry. Afterward, he studied at Stanford, where he earned a Ph. His first chapbook, Four for Trane, was published in His most well-known collection, Splay Anthem, won the National Book Award, and his work has been recognized with other prestigious awards, including the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
Mackey has published two books of criticism, Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews , and five other books of prose, the most recent being the epistolary novel Late Arcade We met in April in New York, both for this interview and to participate in an event where poets talked to local high school students. Mackey, who is tall with an upright, regal bearing, had on a black T-shirt and wore his long, graying dreads loose.
While known for his formidable intellect, in person he is kind and down-to-earth. With the students, he was at ease, even playful. It resumed a few days later in the lobby of his hotel in Midtown.
But it also continues to offer the distant and gnostic hope that our struggle is cyclical and ongoing, and that if and when we are gone, there will be something else. It has a raspy sound to it that appealed to me. And then there was the business of the deceased being reborn in another world, which is marked by a trumpet blare. There were these very textured tonalities that have a kind of braiding quality to them.
Before I really knew more about the Andoumboulou—there was very little about them in the liner notes—I was invested in that particular song and that particular title. I was beginning to be attracted to writing in series, writing sets, so I decided to stay with that in a set or series called Song of the Andoumboulou.
It would be made up of poems that roughly have to do with mortality and sexuality and with the kinds of symbolic counters that are used to talk about them. I wanted to take that and apply it to senses of transition and, hopefully, ascendance within life, moments where one feels one has to move on and move up.
I was too young to go steady. But, as I look back on it, I think you can feel the unrest and the dis-ease with closure even in my first book, Eroding Witness , which ends with an eight-poem set called Septet for the End of Time. That disequilibrium keeps things in motion, ongoing. It became a way for me to look at it as not just a funeral song, but also as something I could bring other stuff into, our failure to live up to the most ideal senses of humanity, for one.
The Dogon also—even though African cultures are thought of as oral cultures, and certainly the oral component is a defining feature—the Dogon are very much into graphics, into markings and visual signs. So, the foregrounding of texture—rasp, abradedness, rub as prototextuality—alongside the Dogon valorization of graphic marking led me to think of the Andoumboulou as rough drafts, rough drafts of humanity.
I want to say it all the time. I say, Andoumboulouousness. Never failed me yet. And it seems that this fits the serial poetic form, which is in some way the poetics of drafting. Rachel Blau DuPlessis calls her long serial poem Drafts. This emphasis on provisionality, working toward whatever perfection or whatever perfectability there might be, is something that at the formal level is reinforcing and signifying what, at a kind of thematic level, this business of Andoumboulouousness is getting at.
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The family left Paris when she was nine, going first to the south of the country. When the deprivations of the war became too much and the southern part of France, the Zone libre , was invaded by Germany and Italy in , the family left France entirely for Mexico when she was ten years old. Her father remained in France to fight, participating later in D-Day in Normandy. Growing up, French was her primary language and it was spoken the most at home. Elena learned her Spanish from people on the streets during her time there as a young girl. They divorced in , and her now ex-husband died on April 26,