Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 107

In an era when poetry is increasingly compressed to fit our iPhone screens, Nathaniel Mackey has been writing two astonishing long poems—“Mu” and Song of the Andoumboulou—across multiple books for the past thirty-five years. “Mu” and Song of the Andoumboulou are two ongoing sequences beaded with his insights on cosmology, grief, ancestry, migration, and black life. The utterance mu suggests “mouth,” “myth,” but also “muse,” whereas Mackey defines Andoumboulou, taken from Dogon myth, as “a rough draft of human being, the work-in-progress we continue to be. . . . The song of the Andoumboulou is one of striving, strain, abrasion, an all but asthmatic song of aspiration.”
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