Blue Fasa, the latest book by Duke University Creative Writing Professor Nathaniel Mackey, is a lyrical voyage through an epic love story. Yet this epic is but a fragment of an even vaster one, “Song of the Andoumboulou,” a multi-volume poem that began with the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem.
In the cosmology of the West African Dogon people, the Andoumboulou is a failed pre-human race that lives in holes underground. This is the mythic foundation upon which Mackey’s ongoing work is built. The interlocking poems chronicle the journey of nomadic jazz musicians through landscapes that are quotidian and cosmic, often both at once. Though Mackey’s stacked three- and four-line stanzas are difficult to represent in prose, this gives the lay of the land: “Death omni- / vorous, life the anomaly, Night // Choir // sang Saturn’s rings wet, galactic / heat the high note they struck …”
Blue Fasa brings a new intimacy and carnality to the mellifluous weave of “Song of the Andoumboulou.” The star-crossed affair of protagonists Stella and Itamar, members of the jazz tribe, is a conduit to push questions of sex and relation to their philosophical limit. Of course, this limit is reached in Mackey’s gentle, suggestive way.