A Fund of Unrest

Nathaniel Mackey (b. 1947 –

“What any experimental art is trying to get you to do is move beyond your preconceptions and your expectations regarding what should be happening, what’s going to happen, what kinds of effects it should have, and enter a liminal state in which those things can be redefined in the way that the particular artist or piece of art is proposing.”

Nathaniel Mackey

    —“mu” one hundred thirty-fourth part—

 
An Excerpt
 
by Nathaniel Mackey
 
Let myself be leaned on though I did, linger
    though I did, I heard enough hearing he died
  when Terremoto died . . . So it was I plugged
                                                                                  my
      ears with strum. Had I listened I’d have la-
  mented my lost body. I leaned against his lean-
    ing, lent my support . . . Propped up in my
                                                                                own
  right, I wondered what I leaned on. A shade
      he might’ve been, soul serenade the song he
                                                                                    sang,
    soul, it seemed, a fund
  of unrest
 

There is something fundamentally contradictory in trying to include Nathaniel Mackey’s long form poetry into the style of this blog – Fourteenlines.  As a master of Jazz poetry and spoken word poetry, Mackey deserves to be included in this months collection, but excerpts simply don’t do his work justice.  I would encourage you to read more of his work in its original form if these snippets strike your fancy. Mackey is known for his embrace of long form poetry to share a deeper narrative about his own and our collective journey as human beings.   
 
There are two words that Mackey frequently uses in his poetry; antiphon and andoumboulou.  Antiphon means; a verse or song to be chanted or sung in response, like a psalm, hymn or prayer sung in alternate parts.   Andoumboulou, from West African Dogon mythology, means “a rough draft of human being, the work-in-progress we continue to be.”
 
Chanting is common place as a form of shared worship in many religions of the world, but has become seen as a bit old fashioned in many Protestant congregations.  It’s a shame that chanting has faded from popularity.   Frederick Buechner,  a noted theologian, says that group chanting can reconnect words to meaning.  He wrote on a recent blog: “when a prayer or a psalm or a passage is chanted, we hear the words again.  We hear them in a new way.  We remember that they are not only meaning, but music and mystery.  The chanting italicizes them.  The prose becomes poetry.  The prosaic becomes powerful.”
 
If you would like to learn more, I recommend the short video below, its a great way to learn  about Nathaniel Mackey’s approach to his art and life. 
 
 
 

On Antiphon Island

by Nathaniel Mackey

—“mu” twenty-eighth part—

   On Antiphon Island they lowered
the bar and we bent back. It
  wasn’t limbo we were in albeit
       we limbo’d. Everywhere we
                                                   went we
  limbo’d, legs bent, shoulder
   blades grazing the dirt,
                                       donned
andoumboulouous birth-shirts,
    sweat salting the silence
 we broke… Limbo’d so low we
     fell and lay looking up at
   the clouds, backs embraced by
                                                    the
       ground and the ground a fallen
                                                         wall
  we were ambushed by… Later we’d
      sit, sipping the fig liqueur, beckoning
 sleep, soon-come somnolence nowhere
     come as yet. Where we were, not-
withstanding, wasn’t there…
 
                                             Where we
  were was the hold of a ship we were
                                                           caught
      in. Soaked wood kept us afloat… It
wasn’t limbo we were in albeit we
    limbo’d our way there. Where we
 were was what we meant by “mu.”
                                                        Where
     we were was real, reminiscent
  arrest we resisted, bodies briefly
                                                    had,
 held on
to
                  •
 
     “A Likkle Sonance” it said on the
record. A trickle of blood hung
    overhead I heard it spurts. An
  introvert trumpet run, trickle of
                                                     sound…
      A trickle of water lit by the sun
        I saw with an injured eye, captive
  music ran our legs and we danced…
                                                           Knees
bent, asses all but on the floor, love’s
      bittersweet largesse… I wanted
   trickle turned into flow, flood,
        two made one by music, bodied
                                                           edge
          gone up into air, aura, atmosphere
              the garment we wore. We were on
            a ship’s deck dancing, drawn in a
                                                                 dream
    above hold… The world was ever after,
                                                                 elsewhere.
Where we were they said likkle for little, lick
     ran with trickle, weird what we took it
  for… The world was ever after, elsewhere,
                                                                   no
  way where we were
was there

Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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