In this first book of essays devoted entirely to Nathaniel Mackey’s work, prominent critics respond to a major oeuvre that is at once affirmative and utopic, negational and dystopic. Drawing on multiple genealogies and traditions, primarily from African and African diaspora histories and cultures, Mackey’s work envisions cultural creation as cross-cultural, based in the damaging relationships of Africans brought against their will to the Americas and the resulting innovations of New World African literatures and music.
This collection is organized through broad topics in order to provide entrances into his challenging work: myth, literature, and seriality; music, performance, and collaboration; syncretism, synopsis, and what-saying. It engages Mackey’s spiritual and esoteric disposition along with his attention to what Amiri Baraka called the “enraged sociologies” of Black music. In his manifesto “Destination Out,” Mackey describes his work as “wanting to bid all givens goodbye” and as “centrifugal.” It is also centripetal, manifesting a reflexive interiority that creates itself through recurring forms.
“This deeply thoughtful collection of essays on the greater master of letters and philosopher Nathaniel Mackey and his wide-ranging presentation of himself as writer, thinker, artist, metaphysician, and mentor is long overdue. Rigorous, dense, heartfelt, and attentive; after this important book there will assuredly be many more considerations of Mackey’s extraordinary significance to come.”—Tracie Morris, author, Who Do With Words
“Focusing on Mackey’s fiction, poetry, and cultural and literary writings, the critics in this volume explore his overarching concerns, such as fugitivity, erosion, and mythology. Well-aware of the intentional slippage in Mackey’s ideas, the contributors patiently trace their development. This excellent collection helps us come to terms with a challenging, complex, and major avant-garde figure.”—William J. Harris, editor, The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader
“For four decades, Nathaniel Mackey has shaped an imaginative world at an oblique angle to what counts as social reality in urban America. He has insisted on intellectual independence and a style based on the sounds of syllables. Here is the first collection of essays on one of the most distinctive U.S. poets of our era—very welcome, this book!”—Robert von Hallberg, author, Lyric Powers
“. . . this edited collection thematizes the beautiful difficulty of doing justice to the scale, scope, and intricacy of Mackey’s lifelong, ongoing masterwork. . . . the volume illuminates Mackey’s defining ambitions of open-ended myth creation and poetic spiritual discovery as it traces some of the poet’s most important esoteric allusions and characteristic techniques. . . . an admirable means to follow Mackey on his journey ‘out.’”—ALH Online Review
Maria Damon, Joseph Donahue, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Norman Finkelstein, Luke Harley, Paul Jaussen, Adalaide Morris, Fred Moten, Peter O’Leary, Anthony Reed