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Monday, April 12, 2010

Nathaniel Mackey's Song of the Andoumboulou 27

[This series of posts reflect on Nathaniel Mackey's Song of the Andoumboulou, a series of poems that Mackey has been working on through three books. His latest book with Andoumboulou poems in them, Splay Anthem, won the National Book Award. I take into consideration, in addition to the poems themselves, 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.]

Song of the Andoumboulou 27 immediately struck me as different from 26 in three ways:
it is less broken up into subsections, the texture of the language feels tauter and rougher, and it describes less traveling.

The poem is divided into three parts: one is two pages long, one a page long, and the last about a half a page long. It begins with horrifying images of alienation told in a language ungraspable but all too evident: "Could / even feel the grain of his / back, whose hips would/ be hers were she her own to / remake..." This is one of many images of discomfort, "grain," coupled with powerlessness — "were she her own." She ends up on Loquat Cove, "also known as Nudge" — which seems an undeniably ugly word.

There she is connected with a man who may physically rape who, but who certainly does on an emotional level. He seems to leave in a space ship after the act. This is based on Mackey's reading of The Pale Fox by Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen. It states that in Dogon cosmology a trip to a distant, twin star is described. In an earlier post, I discussed some of the present controversy surrounding Griaule and Dieterlen's work in anthropology.

But what does this mean poetically? In Dogon cosmology the Andoumboulous are not particularly evident. They live in the earth and are small, considered a "rough draft" of humanity. The "Song of the Andoumboulou" is just a minor funeral song. Mackey has not gone after the most important aspects of Dogon belief. He has taken little slivers and slices, from the edges, from the margins. He believes that we humans are the Andoumboulous, in that we are the rough drafts, at the edges, in that we are always remaking ourselves.

This poem is always remaking itself as well.

I will work with other aspects of this poem tomorrow.

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