May 16, 2005
New book by literature professor melds criticism,
poetry, and fiction
By Scott Rappaport
Paracritical Hinge, a new book by UCSC literature professor
Nathaniel Mackey, offers commentary on the work of a number
of artists as it simultaneously sheds light on the authors
own body of work.
Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Mackey
A collection of essays, talks, notes, and interviews covering
a time frame from 1990 to 2000, the diverse, yet interrelated
pieces underscore Mackeys versatile work as a writer and
The 18 selections in the book run the gamut from critical
essays on poet Walt Whitmans interest in phrenology and
Robert Duncans Vietnam-era war poems, to written adaptations
of talks Mackey gave about Miles Daviss trumpet sound
and the influence of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca
on American poetry, focusing on Lorcas concept of duende,
a prized element in flamenco singing.
The collection, published by the University of Wisconsin Press,
also includes six interviews with Mackey that appeared in such
publications as the Chicago Review and Poetry Flash,
as well as a piece about editing the literary journal Hambone.
Its a book that reflects the fact that I function
not only as a literary critic, but also as a poet, fiction writer,
and editor of a literary magazine, Mackey noted. Paracritical
Hinge seemed like a good title for the book because it reflects
a figurative hinge on a door that permits a flow between criticism
and fiction, art and commentarythe practices I engage
in, he added.
The book includes an essay Mackey wrote about a CD of poetry
titled Strick that he recorded along with two jazz musicians
in 1994 for the Spoken Engine record label in Memphis. I
was asked by the editor of an anthology of essays to write something
about poetry performance, Mackey said. It talks
about some of my attitudes toward performance and the process
Mackey is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, one previous
book of literary criticism, and three books of poetry. He has
also completed three novels in a series titled From a Broken
Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate--composed as letters
written by a composer/multi-instrumentalist named N, a founding
member of a band known as the Mystic Horn Society.
Mackeys 1985 poetry book, Eroding Witness, was
selected for publication in the National Poetry Series. He received
a Whiting Writers Award in 1993 and was elected to the
Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2001.
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