With Nathaniel Mackey’s fifth collection of poems, Nod House, we witness a confluence of music and meaning unprecedented in American poetry. Mackey’s art continues to push the envelope of what is possible to map and remap through words in sounds and sounds in words. Picking up from the Republic of Nub’s disintegration at the end of his previous collection — the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem — we follow a traveler and a tribe of travelers ensconced in myth and history as Mackey continues to weave his precisely measured music with two ongoing serial poems, Song of the Andoumboulou and “Mu”. The collection is divided into two sections, both titled “Quag,” and it is this double Quag in which the tribe is exiled––worlds within alternate worlds where names and places are ever shifting, and dreamlessness reigns. From the pyramids to the projects, Ivory Coast to Lone Coast, Lagos to Stick City, amidst chorusing horns and star-spar lightning, Nod House unfolds as gorgeous eulogy and mourning song.
The pleasure of the book comes from its descriptive daring.
—The New Yorker
In both Song of the Andoumboulou and ‘Mu,’ Mackey describes the music he hears––its history, players, sounds. But more often than not he transposes the music he hears into words, channeling the spirit, re-incarnating it into the English language.