A stellar new collection of poems by “the Balanchine of the architecture dance” (The New York Times), and winner of the National Book Award in poetry.
Nathaniel Mackey’s sixth collection of poems, Blue Fasa, carries forward what the New Yorker has described as the “mythological conception” and “descriptive daring” of his two intertwined serial poems. A long song that's one and more than one, this collection takes its title from two related black musical traditions, a West African griot epic as told by the Fasa, a clan in ancient Ghana, and trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s hard bop classic “Blue Bossa,” influenced by the emergence of Brazilian bossa nova. The book opens with the catch of the heart and the call of romance, as it follows a band of travelers, refugees from history, on their incessant migrations through time, place, and polity toward a truer sense of being and belonging.
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.