Whatsaid Serif (Paperback)
City Lights Books, 9780872863415, 112pp.
Publication Date: January 1, 2001
Whatsaid Serif, Nathaniel Mackey's third book of poems, is comprised of installments sixteen through thirty-five of Song of the Andoumboulou, an ongoing serial work whose first fifteen installments appear in Eroding Witness and School of Udhra, his two previous books. Named after a Dogon funeral song whose raspy tonalities prelude rebirth, Song of the Andoumboulou has from its inception tracked interweavings of lore and livid apprehension, advancing this weave as its own sort of rasp. These twenty new installments evoke the what-sayer of Kakapalo storying practice as a figure for the rough texture of such interweaving. Mackey has suggested that the Andoumboulou, a failed, earlier form of human being in Dogon cosmology, are "a rough draft of human being," that "the Andoumboulou are in fact us; we're the rough draft." The song is of possibility, yet to be fulfilled, aspiration's putative angel itself.
"Nathaniel Mackey's poem is a brilliant renewal of and experiment with the language of our spiritual condition and a measure of what poetry gives in trust - 'heat's/mean' and the rush of language to bear it." --Robin Blaser
"Mackey's raspy rebus-like cultural resurfacings are both beautiful to read and worthy of repeated efforts at comprehension." --Publishers Weekly
Nathaniel Mackey, recipient of a 1993 Whiting Writers' Award, is the author of School of Udhra and Atet A.D., both also published by City Lights Publishers. He won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2006, was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2014, and won Yale's Bollingen Prize for American Poetry in 2015. He teaches a poetry workshop at Duke University.