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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Andoumboulou 17 -- Continuation from June 10

[This is a continuing series of posts that reflect on Nathaniel Mackey's Songs of the Andoumboulou from various angles that interest me. I take into consideration his allusions, Mackey's prose, interviews with him, and critical discussions of his work. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. To access all of the posts, click on "Nathaniel Mackey" in the list to the right.]

[I am currently discussing Mackey's book Whatsaid Serif. If for some reason you cannot buy it, many of the poems can be found here.]

In the second stanza we again run into 'rocks', this time as a weight pulling down, perhaps drowning them.

Once again, the stanza begins with the line 'Thought they were done'. We don't know who is doing the thinking. Also, the thinking is past tense, which removes us a bit from the scene.

Also, in this stanza there is none of the ambiguity created by the use of pronouns unconnected to any noun. Throughout, the entity doing the thinking considers a 'they' identified as a 'Drenched Chorus'. A few stanzas later the phrase 'pulling under' is used.

In an essay entitled "The Mired Sublime" in Poetic Investigations: Singing the Holes in History (Northwestern UP), Paul Naylor identifies a horizontal, person to person transcendence. This is, I think, the "Mired Sublime" of the title. Could it be that this transcendence is connected not to going upward, but to going down, under the earth where the Andoumboulou live?

Are we to take it that the "Drenched Chorus" is singing as the ship goes down, Titanic, or finding what Lorca calls 'duende'? Also, 'chthonic' is a Greek word for the underground as a place of abundance and death.

Also, pronouns get shifted around again.

What can we confidently say about the first three stanzas of this poem? The focus is on action, not people. Identity is radically fluid, to the point where the boundaries between us dissolve. Attention is paid to the underwater and underground, both places of abundance and fertility, yet also suggestive of death (both physical death but, more importantly, death of the individual self.)

Like 'the rim of a well' that Lorca discusses in relation to 'duende'.

This 'mired sublime' -- from both Naylor's essay and an earlier Andoumboulou poem -- is the moving 'outside, beside / themselves'. It is the place of one sort of creativity, of the love that makes the teeth chatter, and of the uneven creakiness of existence.

What Mackey seems to be describing is 'worshippers' not tied to Western notions of spirituality with its individuality and hierarchy. It is a fluid 'person' to fluid 'person' interaction, interpenetration, permeability.

Beautifully and terrifyingly mired.

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