From Amiri Baraka's Airplane Poems to Nathaniel Mackey's Ythmic Ships

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Title: From Amiri Baraka's Airplane Poems to Nathaniel Mackey's Ythmic Ships Poststruccturalism's I'mpact on experimental Writing in the African Diaspora
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Somerville, Tess
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: Poetry
African American Literature
Postcolonial Studies
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis focuses on two African American writers who make very different contributions to our understanding of a �black aesthetic.� The discrepancies between Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey�s attitudes towards writing can be attributed to a generational divide. While Baraka�s early project was imbued with 1960�s Black Power ideology, Mackey incorporates many of the ideas generated by the poststructuralist theorists in the 1970�s and 1980�s. These different theoretical climates greatly impacted their attitudes towards orality/textuality, performance, and gender. Chapter one discusses the status of speech-based poetics before and after poststructuralism emerged, noting poststructuralism�s challenge to the authenticity traditionally associated with the spoken word and its emphasis on text�s ability to reveal the slippage of signifiers. Chapter two treats the live jazz performance�s impact on Baraka�s and Mackey�s approaches to writing and performing their poetry, taking into account poststructuralist theories on performative identity. The last chapter examines the gender dynamics of both writers� work, looking at the influence of the masculinist attitudes found within the Black Arts Movement and Black Mountain poetic schools on Baraka�s project, as well as the ways in which Mackey�s work echoes the ideas of poststructuralist third-wave feminist theorists.
Statement of Responsibility: by Tess Somerville
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Zamsky, Robert

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 S69
System ID: NCFE004454:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: From Amiri Baraka's Airplane Poems to Nathaniel Mackey's Ythmic Ships Poststruccturalism's I'mpact on experimental Writing in the African Diaspora
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Somerville, Tess
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: Poetry
African American Literature
Postcolonial Studies
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis focuses on two African American writers who make very different contributions to our understanding of a �black aesthetic.� The discrepancies between Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey�s attitudes towards writing can be attributed to a generational divide. While Baraka�s early project was imbued with 1960�s Black Power ideology, Mackey incorporates many of the ideas generated by the poststructuralist theorists in the 1970�s and 1980�s. These different theoretical climates greatly impacted their attitudes towards orality/textuality, performance, and gender. Chapter one discusses the status of speech-based poetics before and after poststructuralism emerged, noting poststructuralism�s challenge to the authenticity traditionally associated with the spoken word and its emphasis on text�s ability to reveal the slippage of signifiers. Chapter two treats the live jazz performance�s impact on Baraka�s and Mackey�s approaches to writing and performing their poetry, taking into account poststructuralist theories on performative identity. The last chapter examines the gender dynamics of both writers� work, looking at the influence of the masculinist attitudes found within the Black Arts Movement and Black Mountain poetic schools on Baraka�s project, as well as the ways in which Mackey�s work echoes the ideas of poststructuralist third-wave feminist theorists.
Statement of Responsibility: by Tess Somerville
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Zamsky, Robert

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 S69
System ID: NCFE004454:00001

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FROM AMIRI BARAKA'S AIRPLANE POEMS TO NATHANIEL MACKEY'S YTHMIC SHIPS: POSTSTRUCTURALISM'S IMPACT ON EXPERIMENTAL WRITING IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA BY TESS SOMERVILLE A thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a the degree Bachelor of Arts under the sponsorship of Robert Zamsky Sarasota, Florida May 2011


Table of Contents Introduction: Defining experimental postmodernism..........................................................1 Chapter 1: Interpretations of orality and textuality and uses of speech and text...............13 Chapter 2: Interpretations of the jazz performance and the incorporation of jazz ...... technique..........................................................................................................47 Chapter 3: Interpretations of gender and performances of masculinity.............................84 Conclusion......................................................................................................................114 Bibliography.....................................................................................................................126 Discography.....................................................................................................................135 ii


Introduction Defining Experimental Postmodernism In purely chronological terms, Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey could both be termed postmodern black poets. They both belong to the genre of jazz poetry, as jazz provides a conceptual foundation and substantial thematic content for both of their artistic projects. They are both avant-garde poets, working in the high modernist, Black Mountain, New York School and Beat traditions. They are both post-colonial poets because of the ways in which they engage with the cultural politics of colonization within but not limited to the African Diaspora. As African American writers, they are frequently thought of in relation to the canon of African American literature. Yet there remains a central disconnect between their projects, despite the numerous ways in which they relate to one another. It remains difficult to call them similar poets considering their different understanding of the black intellectual's role in society and their drastically different approaches to text, performance, and gender construction. In order to contextualize this difference, it might be useful to explore the vague parameters of black postmodernism as well as the changing status of black experimental writing in the postmodern era. Experimental black writing has historically held a tenuous position in the literary world. One could say that post-colonial writing is inherently experimental, as it always grapples with the European literary canon and, by extension, European cultural hegemony. That being said, the canon of black literature has its own set of conventions that writers either work within or reject. Looking at literary anthologies, one notes that African American writers are often roped together because they are seen as working 1


primarily within a black tradition, no matter what other traditions or schools they may have contributed to, or the ways they eschew expressive modes deemed inherently African American. An example of the problematic nature of anthologizing would be Donald Allen's 1960 anthology The New American Poetry which sought to capture the most important players in the avant-garde poetry world. While the anthology included poets from various schools all over the country, it included only one black poet LeRoi Jones. While Jones certainly was an important figure in the Black Mountain and Beat schools, Allen's failure to incorporate equally important writers like Bob Kaufman and Ted Joans indicates a delineated space for black writers in the American cultural imagination that, despite occasional overlaps, has been kept separate from the space provided for white experimental writers. Aldon Nielson describes this as an unfortunate trend in critical discourse on Beat poetry, noting that in "most anthologies of the period, the public face of poetic innovation in New York was white, masking once more the significant contributions of black writers to the gathering forces of the new" ( Black Chant, 79-80). Allen's incorporation of Jones strikes modern readers as problematic in light of Jones's transformation into the black Nationalist poet Amiri Baraka in the early 1960's. While Allen's inclusion of Jones was necessary in order to encapsulate the poetry of the era, Jones/Baraka's poetry remains insistently different from that of his white contemporaries because of the racial politics with which it engages. That being said, Baraka's poetry should not be defined by Black Nationalist politics. While the height of Baraka's career in the mid to late 1960's pegged him as a figurehead of the Black Arts Somerville P 2


Movement in the mainstream American imagination, his work can also be read as a mutation of Black Mountain / Beat poetics. Just as it would be impossible to write about Black Mountain or Beat poetics without talking about LeRoi Jones, it is nearly impossible to write about Amiri Baraka without mentioning Charles Olson or Jack Kerouac. In discussing the problem with anthologizing black literature, Nielson argues "If American postmodernity is to be comprehended in its transracial plenitude, critical readings will have to follow black poets as they read and transform the texts of whites" ( Black Chant, 36). Baraka offers an interesting example of the complicated intersection of white and black experimental practice. Because the political dynamics of Baraka's work pose such a problem to readers, and because he focuses so much energy into asserting an authentic black identity, it's easier to anthologize Baraka as an African American writer rather than to anthologize his work based on a nuanced look at his poetics. In "Other: From Noun to Verb," Nathaniel Mackey states While the regressive racial views of white writers like Stein and Ezra Pound tend to be regarded (if they're regarded at all) as secondary to their artistic innovations, black writers tend to be read racially, primarily at the content responding to racism, representing "the black experience." That black writers have been experimentally and innovatively engaged with the medium, addressing issues of form as well as issues of content, tends to be ignored. The ability to influence the course of the medium, to move the medium, entails an order of animacy granted Somerville P 3


only to whites when it comes to writing. (Mackey, "Other, From Noun to Verb," 285) In "Expanding the Repertoire," Mackey asserts that, rather than being appreciated for adding new perspectives on art, African American writing is "most likely to be recognized and valorized for, credited with or taken to be characterized by... the provision of an otherwise absent or underrepresented (thus new) perspective, conveniently known as the black perspective, its report on the one thing African Americans are regarded as experts onracial victimization" ("Expanding the Repertoire," 240). In describing Baraka's often misunderstood contribution to literature, Mackey writes that his reception is characteristic of mainstream America's approach to African American writing. The ill-defined space that Baraka occupies in the literary world points to the larger problem of categorizing black experimental literature using traditional labels, which are already problematic. Terms like modern and postmodern are overused to the point where they are no longer useful writers working after modernism often continue to write in the modernist tradition, and postmodernism is too limited a term to encompass everything that's emerged after the modernist age. Adding race to the equation makes the task of understanding experimental "postmodern" writing even more complicated. For one, the role of experimentation in Diasporic writing has been a bone of contention for politically engaged writers throughout history, leading to numerous arguments within the black writing community concerning just how literary black literature should be. The Francophone NŽgritude movement beginning in the 1920s involved disagreements Somerville P 4


among its founders concerning opacity in black poetry. An example would be Martinican poet AimŽ CŽsaire's longstanding argument with Haitian poet RenŽ Depestre about accessibility in black writing. While Depestre argued West Indian poetry should be readily interpretable among the uneducated masses in order to be politically effective, CŽsaire asserted that innovative abstract poetry written in elevated French sent a more powerful message to the colonial powers, emphasizing the potential intellectual growth that the government denied its colonized citizens by economically exploiting them 1 This debate was taken up again in the United States during the Harlem Renaissance. Mackey points to one of Langston Hughes's characters named Jesse B. Semple, "a lightly veiled way of saying just be simple,' the credo of quintessential blackness" ("Expanding the Repertoire," 240). During the Black Arts Movement, activists/writers like Amiri Baraka and Gil-Scott Heron called for poetry that spoke directly to the black community about current affairs, creating a sense of urgency that left little room for esoteric material or opaque form. The Black Arts Movement's emphasis on creating an authentically black mode of expression encouraged black artists to strip their practice of anything that represented white cultural hegemony. For Baraka and many of his contemporaries, this often meant distancing their writing from the kinds of intellectual discourse considered to be products of white academia. In an 1968 interview in which he described his dramatic break from the Greenwich village Beats, Baraka said, "I was consciously striving for a postbourgeois/Western form, even before the cultural nationalist years. Now, Creeley, Olson, Somerville P 5 1 See CŽsaire, "The Verb Marroner' / for RenŽ Depestre, Haitian Poet," Collected Poetry, 369.


et al. were themselves post-bourgeois academic poets, and that was valuable for me. But they were also, in some ways, an extension of Western art" (Baraka, "Amiri Baraka: An Interview," 308). As Baraka's social/political ambitions grew, he began to shed the obscurity that characterized his earlier work, espousing a poetics that spoke more directly to what he perceived to be the lived reality of African Americans. Although Baraka dismissed white avant-garde poetics in an effort to remove himself from white avantgarde society, a critical look at Baraka's work suggests that he continued to engage with those poetics throughout his career. Mackey aligns the desire to detach Amiri Baraka's work from that of LeRoi Jones with the impulse to develop "canons of accessibility and disclosure that are viewed as diametrically opposed to the difficulty attributed to formally innovative work" ("Expanding the Repertoire," 240). Mackey notes that this dichotomization has led to "the distinction between a formally innovative willingness to incur difficulty, on the white hand, and a simple disclosure of innovative content, on the black" (241). The debate over accessibility continues to evolve with the evolution of cultural politics, artistic experimentation, and theoretical discourse. Bell Hooks deals with the problematic status of opaque experimental art in black society in "Postmodern Blackness," where she discusses the black intellectual community's tenuous relationship to postmodern critical and artistic approaches because of their perceived position in opposition to black solidarity and their perceived removal from the quotidian lives of the black underclass. According to her, postmodernist theory's suspicious stance towards racial or national identity renders it threatening to writers attempting to define the black experience. She states, "The unwillingness to critique Somerville P 6


essentialism on the part of many African-Americans is rooted in the fear that it will cause folks to lose sight of the specific history and experience of African-Americans and the unique sensibilities and culture that arise from that experience" (Hooks, 2483). Arguing that postmodernism does provide a useful critical framework for black intellectuals as well as for uneducated members of the black community, she concludes that "there is a radical difference between a repudiation of the idea that there is a black "essence" and recognition of the way black identity has been specifically constituted in the experience of exile and struggle" (2483). Hooks aligns postmodernism with anti-essentialist discourse and a valorization of fragmentation rather than a desire for unification. She notes that the black community often sees it as dangerous, as "postmodern critiques of the subject'... surface at a historical moment when many subjugated people feel themselves coming to voice for the first time" (2482). In short, postmodernism is perceived as a denial of selfhood, and a denial of certain cultural values established by previous generations of African American artists. But are writers working in the postmodern era invested in a completely different set of political/cultural issues than modernist writers? While critics use the term postmodern chronologically to describe writing after World War II, modernist preoccupations didn't disappear in 1945. According to Hooks, "the black power movement was influenced by perspectives that could easily be labeled modernist. Certainly many of the ways black folks addressed issues of identity conformed to a modernist universalizing agenda" (2478). So while Amiri Baraka faced the social disunity characteristic of the postmodern era, the ideological framework within Somerville P 7


which he worked as a Black Nationalist encouraged modernist approaches. In his essay "Notes on Lou Donaldson & Andrew Hill," Baraka claims modernism as an inherently African mode, stating What is necessary is a constant effort at achieving a total. At achieving something New. Make it New attributed to Ezra Pound is Eastern. It is the African (and Sufi) explanation of why life, even though contained by an endless cycle, or not contained is an endless cycle can be, is worthwhile, i.e. make it new and lo and behold KARMA (digit???)." ("Notes," 46) While Baraka's agenda corresponded to certain modernist impulses like "make it new," the politics of the postmodern era made modernist projects more difficult to sustain. Bell Hooks writes, "Despite the fact that black power ideology reflected a modernist sensibility, these elements were soon rendered irrelevant as militant protest was stifled by a powerful, repressive postmodern state" (2478-2479). Because of the different societies from which they sprang, Black Arts Movement ideology differed from high modernist ideology in its perception of poetry's impact on society. According to Aldon Nielson, members of the Black Arts Movement generation, "whether they were social activists or not... tended to view the political as suitable material for poetic composition" ( Black Chant, 99). He states that "Whether or not [BAM writers] agreed with Auden that poetry makes nothing happen,' they viewed the poem as a place where politics could happen," leading to "the dominant view...that the chief role of a poem is to make something Somerville P 8


happen" (99-100). While certain tenets of modernism, namely "art for art's sake," have not always coincided with the projects of politically engaged writers, other aspects of modernism most importantly its emphasis on constant innovation have remained essential to experimental practice. Just as Baraka's poetics were deeply influenced by Black Arts Movement ideology, Nathaniel Mackey's work can be read in relation to the ideological or theoretical framework of his era. As a member of a group of intellectuals coming of age during the late 1970's and 1980's, Mackey belongs to a generation heir to the Poststructuralist theories that emerged in France in the mid to late 1960's and spread to the Western Hemisphere by the end of the decade. Poststructuralist thought, falling under the umbrella of postmodern discourse, created an ideological rift between generations of writers that likewise fall under the postmodern chronological umbrella. While primarily a linguistic theory, philosophers and literary critics working in the poststructuralist tradition have incorporated its main maxims in creating theories on psychology, gender, national/ racial identity, and political discourse. Underlying themes of poststructuralist discourse include the instability of both spoken and written language, the opacity of meaning, and the mutability of identity. Therefore, much of the writing that has been produced in the wake of poststructuralism remains painfully aware of the problematic nature of language in general, and the inability of writing to crystallize reality. Because Mackey works within this tradition, he destabilizes many of the characteristics of the black identity or the black experience that so many writers are invested in pinning down. Certain conventions of black writing, for example its emphasis Somerville P 9


on orality, become suspect when approached from a poststructuralist perspective. It would seem misguided to place him firmly within the African American canon, as he works against the established mainstream African American literary tradition in many ways. While issues of race appear in Mackey's critical and creative work, his work is not a "response to racism," to use his phrase. Instead of drawing from the particular situation of modern-day African Americans, Mackey's work draws from the spiritual conditions of people of various ethnic backgrounds, not solely from people thought of as racial others. That being said, racism appears frequently as an identifiable and powerful contributor to spiritual malaise. In his introduction to Callaloo's special Nathaniel Mackey issue, Paul Naylor describes Mackey's work as a "cross-cultural journey," adding, "yet the outcome of this journey is anything but a naive sentimentalism. Rather, Mackey's is a resolutely discrepant cross-cultural engagement that refuses to mute the noise of inevitable conflict that such an engagement creates" (Naylor, 501). Although issues specific to the African American community appear in his work, Mackey's identity as a black writer doesn't delineate the parameters of his project. Mackey explores the limits of artistic mediums, imbuing his work with gnostic spirituality and metaphysical discourse. Like Baraka, Mackey has a complicated relationship to both modernism and postmodernism, making it hard to satisfactorily categorize his work. His interest in finding threads connecting myths from widespread locations suggests a modernist universalizing impulse if not a Cultural Nationalist agenda. Because Mackey refuses to directly engage in current affairs and refuses to frame his work as any sort of political weapon, he seems to participate in an "art for art's sake" project, aligning him with Somerville P 10


modernists despite the glaringly postmodern elements of his work. For writers like Mackey, poststructuralism seems to have opened up both old and new avenues for black writers, dissolving the boundary that previous generations had attempted to create between high modernist intellectualism and "the real world," or esoteric discourse and cultural progress. While Mackey's work engages with numerous aspects of the real world most importantly jazz it also remains insistently detached from it. Both Mackey's fiction and his poetry are filled with obscure allusions, paratactic leaps, and hallucinatory imagery, likening him to a degree to modernist writers like Ezra Pound or Wallace Stevens. Current criticism often situates him within the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry school, a school that emerged in the late 1970s, often framed as the successor to the high modernist, Objectivist, Projectivist, and New American poetry schools. While Mackey certainly does come out of all of these white avant-garde traditions, to peg him squarely as a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet is to ignore his equally important ties to black Diasporic writers of various generations, for example the jazz writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement writers like Amiri Baraka and Lorenzo Thomas, contemporary Caribbean writers like Kamau Brathwaite and Wilson Harris, or previous generations of post-colonial writers like the francophone NŽgritude poets. Acknowledging Mackey's expansive and ever-evolving transracial scope of influence, Amiri Baraka remains an interesting and troubling point of comparison, as Baraka's work poses a parallel challenge when looked at outside of a purely racial context. Somerville P 11


As I will attempt to demonstrate in my thesis, a look at Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey's projects illuminates the failure of conventional literary terms to satisfactory contextualize them. While both are technically black postmodern experimental jazz poets, they belong to distinctly different eras. I would like to establish that a generational divide that witnessed the emergence of poststructuralist and thirdwave feminist schools of thought accounts greatly for Baraka and Mackey's differing relationship to speech-based and text-based poetics, performance practice, and gender. I hope to demonstrate that despite the numerous threads connecting their projects (for example their conceptual incorporation of jazz, their interest in Diasporic culture, and their roots in white avant-garde poetics), they belong to two distinct groups within a larger group of postmodern writers. While Baraka can be easily placed into the Black Arts Movement category or labeled as a Third-World Marxist poet (essentialist labels that Baraka at times encouraged), in doing so one runs the risk of ignoring his works' continued (if denied) engagement with other expressive modes. Nathaniel Mackey completely resists the impulse to categorize, calling into question what defines a "black" writer in the postmodern era, where traditional notions of authorship and personal identity have been discarded. Mackey's work, along with that of his contemporaries working in a poststructural era, may call for an updated critical vocabulary altogether, as the terms African American, post-colonial, postmodern, jazz and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E all seem deficient in describing his project. Somerville P 12


Chapter 1 Interpretations of orality and textuality and uses of speech and text "The whole Western esthetic since the Renaissance seems to be based on the fact that white men introduced the art of notation to music. James Joyce tried to forget that. Not musically. As a writer, he tried to forget that" Archie Shepp, liner notes to Live in San Francisco 1966 ( quoted in Nielson, Black Chant, 181). Introduction As writers heavily invested in African cultural traditions, both Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey participate in a long-standing conversation within the African American intellectual community concerning the tension between orality and textuality in black writing. As black artists, their writing is informed by a cultural tradition that is perceived to be dominated by oral rather than textual expression. Human speech also informs the music that provides a conceptual foundation for both of their projects. However, as postmodern writers, they also work within a tradition that brings text as a medium to the forefront. The functions of speech and text remain complicated in their artistic worlds because of the cultural politics surrounding the two mediums. As writers with very different agendas, their uses of both speech and text differ greatly. For Baraka, speech-based poetics allow black artists to tap into an originary artistic process because of the practice's deep roots in West African tradition. An essential aspect of asserting his African American identity involved an attempt to eschew white Somerville P 13


artistic practices and modes of expression. From his perspective, text represents notions of Western superiority because of its historical use by colonial powers as a marker of "civilized" society. The value of speech-based poetics lies partly in the challenge that they pose to text's perceived supremacy over oral expression. Because he considered speech-based writing to be an authentic form of black expression and a useful method of community-building, it became a powerful political tool. While speech and orality play a key role in Nathaniel Mackey's critical and creative work, he does not renounce text in an effort to espouse any particular message or relive any ancestral experience. For him, experimental writing is an act of fraying words in order to complicate their meanings. In his poetry, text serves a useful role because it illuminates visual resonances between words that are used and words that are implied, facilitating the breakdown of linguistic structures. As a serial writer, Mackey uses a limited vocabulary to treat a limited range of topics, making this function of text vital. The discrepancy between Baraka and Mackey's attitudes towards speech and text seem to stem in large part from a generational divide. Traditional philosophy from Plato up until the Structuralist school of the early to mid twentieth century established a speech/text dichotomy, often privileging speech because of an assumed connection between the physical presence of the speaker and the meaning of the words spoken. Philosophers from Rousseau to Levi-Strauss often looked at oral culture with a nostalgic view, considering the written word to have infringed on tribal culture's unaffected relationship to language. Christopher Norris writes that in conventional philosophy, Somerville P 14


" writing becomes an exteriorized agency of violence and corruption, constantly menacing the communal values so closely iden tified with speech" (Norris, 39). Following Jaques Derrida's 1966 lecture "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Science" the critical community saw a drastic evolution in the concept of signication systems, as well as a disbelief in a denable signied. The emergence of poststructuralist thought brought both spoken and written language under re-examination. Under poststructuralism, "writing again becomes the pivotal term in an argument that extends its implications to the whole prehistory and founding institutions of society" (Norris, 39). Leading poststructuralist thinkers like Derrida began to view writing not as the shadow of utterance, but as a system of language that informs speech before utterance even occurs. Norris writes, Writing, for Derrida, is the free play' or element of undecidability within every system of communication. Its operations are precisely those which escape the self-consciousness of speech and its deluded sense of the mastery of concept over language. Writing is the endless displacement of meaning which both governs language and places it for ever beyond the reach of a stable, self-authenticating knowledge. In this sense, oral language already belongs to a generalized writing', the effects of which are everywhere disguised by the illusory metaphysics of presence.' (28) Somerville P 15


Because poststructuralist theory places so much emphasis on the unreliability of linguistic signiers and the proliferation of meanings that occur during their usage, writers working in its wake often use text and speech in conjunction. This results in linguistic play, or what what Gregory Ulmer identies as "puncepts" (quoted in Morris, 750). A classic example of the poststructuralist puncept is Derrida's play on the diffŽrence (difference) between signiers and their habit of diffŽrance (a term he invented to describe the perpetual deferment of meaning to other signiers rather than to an identiable signied) (Derrida, "DiffŽrance," 17) As Ulmer notes, puncepts are effective because the possibility for mishearing aids in the deconstruction of words, giving way to alternative meanings or non-meanings. The visibility of the written word highlights this tension, and its permanence on the page allows the reader to examine the expanding corolla of meanings that surround each signier. !The interaction of critical/linguistic theory and experimental writing had precedent in previous decades, for example when Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of semiotics and Sigmund Freud's theory of the subconscious inspired surrealist writers at the turn of the century to attempt to delve into their subconscious by divorcing signiers from their traditional signieds. The father of surrealism AndrŽ Breton hoped that in liberating words from their conventional function, man could liberate his subconscious, and therefore liberate himself in the social/political realm. He writes Man proposes and disposes. He and he alone can determine whether he is completely master of himself, that is, whether he maintains the body of his desires, daily more formidable, in a state of anarchy. Poetry teaches him to. It Somerville P 16


bears within itself the perfect compensation for the miseries we endure. It can also be an organizer, if ever, as the result of a less intimate disappointment, we contemplate taking it seriously. The time is coming when...there will still be gatherings on the public squares, and movements you never dared hope participate in." (Breton, 18) Unlike surrealism, poststructuralism framed art in a way that rendered it ineffective in the political sphere. Derrida's often quoted "there is no outside the text" made connecting literature to social upheaval difficult ( Of Grammatology 158-59 ). Furthermore, a distinct aspect of poststructuralism was its discomfort with notions that man can ever be "completely master of himself," or even truly understand his own identity. Like the surrealists, poststructuralist linguistic and psychological theorist Jacques Lacan connected the ideas of Saussure and Freud, but challenged language's ability to tap into the subconscious, or to find any personal liberation in doing so. In Lacan's work, the Saussurean algorithm of S/s that represents the signifier over the signified also serves as a visual for the split between the conscious and the subconscious. The ability to understand or experience anything below the center line the bar of repression is questionable. Lacan states that preceding literary theory clung "to the illusion that the signifier answers to the function of representing the signified, or better, that the signifier has to answer for its existence in the name of any signification whatsoever" (Lacan, 1293). His contemplation of linguistics in relation to psychology lead him to ask, "is the place that I occupy as the subject of a signifier concentric or excentric, in relation to the Somerville P 17


place I occupy as subject of the signified?" (1301). He concludes that defining personhood by use of language is misguided, that "the S and the s of the Saussurean algorithm are not on the same level, and man only deludes himself when he believes his true place is at their axis, which is nowhere" (1302). Lacan's questioning of our access to our own identities posed a great challenge to readers as well as writers, as both groups were asked to question both their effect on language and language's effect on their sense of self. Along with new ideas about language's impact on selfhood, poststructuralist thinkers introduced new challenges to traditional concepts of authorship and national/ racial identity. While originally a structuralist, Roland Barthes' essay "Death of the Author" signaled his entrance into the poststructuralist school. In it, he demands that text be completely detached from the author and his/her political and social sensibilities. He writes that for the "modern scriptor," "the hand, cut off from any voice, borne by a pure gesture of inscription (and not expression), traces a eld without origin or which, at least, has no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins" (Barthes, 1468). According Barthes, it is the unxed quality of written language that makes it an essential part of all artistic productions, rendering the question of intent irrelevant. !Homi K. Bhabha likewise emphasizes the opacity of language in his defense of postmodern critical theory. Like Bell Hooks, Bhabha challenges the tendency to dichotomize Western theoretical discourse and Third World political discourse that often equates to separating intellectual discourse from real-world problems. He rejects the notion that theory somehow infringes on the potency of third-world political literature, Somerville P 18


stating that a failure to engage with the text itself keeps the artistic content of the "other" the "exegetical horizon of difference, never the active agent of articulation" (Bhabha, 2393). He states that art never achieves its full political effect without textual analysis, even if literary criticism represents a hegemonic Western institution that many consider oppositional to Third World values. He writes, !! !The reason a cultural text or system of meaning cannot be sufcient unto itself is !that the act of cultural enunciation the place of utterance is crossed by the diffŽrance of writing. This has less to do with what anthropologists might describe !as varying attitudes to symbolic systems within different cultures than with the !structure of symbolic representation itself not the content of the symbol or its !social function, but the structure of symbolization. It is this difference in the !process of language that is crucial to the production of meaning and ensures, at !the same time, that meaning is never simply !mimetic and transparent. (Bhabha, !2395) While Bhabha does not challenge literature's potential to make a political impact, it is only through the deconstruction of text that the work becomes meaningful on an aesthetic and political plane. Because everyone has a different (always tenuous) grasp on language or a different way of organizing it, the text must be deconstructed for any signicance to be transferred to the reader. !Like Bhabha, Gilles Deleuze and FŽlix Guattari offered new ways for politically engaged writers and readers to conceptualize their personal, national and cultural Somerville P 19


perspective. In "A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia," Deleuze and Guattari replace the traditional concept of a single ancestral root with the concept of a world-wide rhizome, or an interconnected root system which has many offshoots but no centralized control center. They highlight the mutable nature of cultural identity when they write, "in contrast to centered (even polycentric) systems with hierarchical modes of communication and pre-established paths, the rhizome is an a-centered, nonhierarchical, non-si gnifying system without a General and without an organizing memory" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1605). This underlying theme of instability or incomprehensibility in poststructuralist theory has linguistic, political, and cultural implications. Poststructuralism's challenge to the speech/text dichotomy, traditional notions of personal and national identity, and to language's communicative abilities affected intellectuals all over the globe. This shift was particularly notable in the African Diaspora, where so much emphasis had been placed on Africa's cultural legacy of orality. Poststructuralism caused many black experimental writers coming of age in the 1970's and 1980's to call into question the certitude usually attributed to spoken language, as well as the ability of speech-based writing to revive an ancestral experience. Rather than using language to combat diasporic uprootedness, writers working in the wake of poststructuralism began to explore uprootedness itself, using language to problematize rather than simplify their complex relationships to their present settings. In order to fully examine this conceptual rupture between generations, it may be useful to look at an example of poststructuralism's effects on thinkers elsewhere in the colonized world. Somerville P 20


NŽgritude models of black experimental writing before and after poststructuralism A political and artistic movement established by Francophone writers from Africa and the Caribbean, NŽgritude provided a powerful model for politically charged black writing. Many politically active African American writers were heavily influenced by AimŽ CŽsaire, the Martinican poet and politician who coined the term. CŽsaire combined his political efforts to diminish Europe's political control and economic exploitation of the Caribbean with his artistic challenges to the Western world's cultural dominance of the African Diaspora. CŽsaire sought to create a mode of expression that would speak specifically to the West Indian community and simultaneously capture the common experience of uprooted peoples of the African Diaspora. He called the hegemony of European French into question by infusing it with the cadence of Antillian speech, without sacrificing any elevation of style or vocabulary. In this manner, he asserted his identity not only as a West Indian but as a West Indian intellectual, an identity not readily recognized by French culture. Edouard Glissant, CŽsaire's protŽgŽ of sorts, continued this project in some respects but not others. While Antillian speech and culture are important in his work, he does not endow them with the ability to incite social mobilization. While not totally free of political sentiment, Glissant's critical work suggests that his poetry is not geared towards recreating an authentic black experience, nor towards making lasting political impact in Martinique. The ideological / conceptual rift between CŽsaire and Somerville P 21


Glissant in many ways mirrors that between Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey, partly because of the emergence of poststructuralist thought. In an essay on CŽsaire Baraka states, "Art is an attempt to describe the world, an ideological formIt is a projection of life, it is a projection of the particular life, of the artist, as well. Art can exist independently of the context of its creation only at the risk of obscurity" ("AimŽ CŽsaire," 322). While the surrealistic nature of CŽsaire's work and his highly elevated style make it difficult to associate with clarity or accessibility, CŽsaire makes his personal attachment to the landscape and language of the Caribbean pronounced. CŽsaire used surrealist techniques and neologisms to mutate signifiers, frequently pointing to signifieds specific to the West Indian community that are often inaccessible to non-Antillian readers. Describing CŽsaire's language as "the site of colonial instruction and strategic rebellion," Aldon Nielson writes, "the Adamic moment in which CŽsaire reclaims the naming powers of New World language recovers the power of great speech" ( Black Chant 158). In the poem "Internuncio," CŽsaire highlights the power of vernacular to form an identity and challenge cultural hegemony. He writes that little Antillian words or phrases like "a little word couresse / a little word through-myfault crab," give him "evidence" of himself, of his "own blood a firefly among fireflies" (CŽsaire, 397). This image of fireflies, a recurring image elsewhere associated with the reflection of stars on the surface of water in his poetry, points to his belief in a cultural bond between the ethnic groups of the African Diaspora. Because the ocean represents the New World's connection back to Africa, the reflection of stars on its surface suggests that entities (celestial or human) can there find renewed illumination. Somerville P 22


West Indian speech forms a linguistic pool into which dispersed and disenfranchised groups can tap, potentially leading to a unified effort towards gaining political and social agency. In addition to capturing speech as it is experienced in the West Indies, CŽsaire and other NŽgritude writers wanted to provide a vehicle for members of the African Diaspora to re-experience language as it was used in pre-colonial in Africa. In his essay on CŽsaire, Baraka cites the booklet-manifesto LŽgitime DŽfense as an important influence on NŽgritude. Among its political messages, the manifesto lauds Harlem renaissance poetry's efforts to revive African culture by using black vernacular. CŽsaire's colleague LŽopold Senghor echoed their valorization of speech when he wrote, "It is black Africa's good fortune to have spurned writing...The truth is that writing impoverishes reality. It crystallizes the latter in rigid categories; it freezes it when reality is meant to be alive fluid and shapeless. (quoted in Dash "The World and the Word," 120). While he did not espouse the same anti-writing sentiments as some of his contemporaries, CŽsaire was highly influenced by American poets' use of black music and black speech and incorporated it into his own pan-African project. CŽsaire's heavy investment in language's social functions fostered a belief in poetry not only as a political tool but as a weapon, thus the title of his book Les Armes Miraculeuses ( Miraculous Weapons ). The violence in his work signals not only a defense against France's attempts to suppress any vestiges of African culture in its colonies, but also an attack on the rigidity and stagnation of the French language and Western scientific thought. Baraka describes CŽsaire's work as defiant of European rationalism, stating that Somerville P 23


CŽsaire used experimental forms, particularly surrealism, as a vehicle for the "destruction of French literary tradition, which he felt stifled by" ("AimŽ CŽsaire," 325). The political implications of CŽsaire's literary destruction, coupled with his political activism, made him a heroic figure to intellectuals all over the diaspora. Speech plays a much more complicated (and complicating) role in the work of Edouard Glissant, a member of a generation familiar with poststructuralist thought. Like CŽsaire, Glissant was heavily indebted to European thinkers, although he often found it necessary to modify their ideas for his uniquely Antillian or (in broader terms) American project. While he frequently challenged European intellectualism, Glissant did not entirely dismiss it as a repressive mode of thought. He describes a need to distinguish between "lived modernity," which he describes as "that which is abruptly imposed," and "matured modernity," meaning "developed over extended historical space" (Glissant, "Cross-Cultural Poetics," 148). He writes, "I wish to speak of the question of lived modernity, which I will not simply add to, but which I will link directly to the notion of a matured modernity. By this I am opposing, not a kind of primitivism' to a kind of intellectualism,' but two ways of dealing with changes in contemporary reality. (148). Glissant calls into question the existence of a strict West / East opposition, let alone the speech's ability to clarify or solidify the black community's connection to the latter. While Glissant does not pretend that the lived reality of whites in modern Europe or the Americas is the same as that of black members of the Diaspora, and while he acknowledges that artists of African heritage come from a different cultural and artistic tradition, he refuses to characterize modern white culture as inherently antithetical to Somerville P 24


modern black culture. He writes that the members of post-colonial or neocolonial society have a tendency to form identity around "the totalitarian drive of a single, unique root rather than around a fundamental relationship with the Other" (Glissant, "Errantry, Exile," 14). Borrowing Deleuze and Guattari's ideas about rhizomatic root systems as a way for describing the formation of culture, Glissant writes "Errantry, therefore, does not proceed from renunciation nor from frustration regarding a supposedly deteriorated (deterritorialized) situation of origin; it is not a resolute act of rejection or an uncontrolled impulse of abandonment" (18). Rhizomatic cultural roots prompt "the knowledge that identity is not longer completely within the root but also in Relation" (18). According to Michael J. Dash, "Glissant's insistence on irreducible opacity... is his way of breaking the symmetries of global encounter or upsetting the perfect binaries that we tend to assemble at the crossroads of cultural encounter" (Dash, "The Madman at the Crossroads," 41). In his critical and creative work, Glissant highlights the unreliability of linguistic signifiers, and the discomfort that characterizes many oral cultures' relationships to speech and storytelling. In Caribbean Discourse he describes Creole as "destructively non-functional," stating that "this language, in its day-to-day application, becomes increasingly a language of neurosis. Screamed speech becomes knotted into contorted speech, into the language of frustration," (Glissant, "Cross-Cultural Poetics, 129). In describing the difference between "natural poetics" and "forced poetics," Glissant extends this to all linguistic forms considered subaltern, calling into question the fortitude of the connection between the spoken word and the speaker if the latter's self-expression Somerville P 25


does not "result from the autonomous activity of the social body" (121). According to him, spoken language often fails the speaker in disenfranchised cultures that use a nonstandardized vernacular rather than empowering them to actively combat linguistic and political oppression. He writes, "self-expression, a casualty of this lack of autonomy, is itself marked by a kind of impotence, a sense of futility" (121). Like Derrida, Glissant sees writing not as the cause of post-colonial subjects' often troubled relationship to language and self, but as a productive means of capturing that awkwardness. He writes "the text must be for us (in our lived experience) destabilized, because it must belong to a shared reality" ("Cross Cultural Poetics," 149). As the shared reality of members of the African Diaspora means the constant destabilization of selfhood, poststructuralism's emphasis on the tenuous nature of our grasp on identity and language renders it a useful philosophical lens for analyzing Diasporic discourse. Glissant continues to contend that the author or individual speaker, "must be demythified, certainly, because he must be integrated into a common resolve" (149). Echoing Barthes, Glissant writes "the creator of a text is effaced, or rather, is done away with, to be revealed in the texture of his creation" ("Poetics," 25). In Glissant's world, Martinican vernacular does not retain the same importance that it does for CŽsaire, and the black writer is stripped of his status as revolutionary hero. The influence of poststructuralism made it much harder to identify an inherent black identity, let alone find a medium to express it authentically As a member of a generation who inherited these ideas, Glissant frequently questions speech, identity, certitude, and the political efficacy of language in his critical and creative work. These aspects of Glissant's Somerville P 26


work (among others) greatly influenced Nathaniel Mackey's project, which, while not apolitical, is equally uninterested in using poetry as a political or social tool. The legacy of NŽgritude the Black Arts Movement's return to orality For many Black Arts Movement intellectuals, CŽsaire and the other NŽgritude poets provided models of political and artistic radicalism. In reference to CŽsaire's work, Amiri Baraka writes "here is the self-knowledge, self-affirmation, and the move to liberation. Blackness is not a static, mystical, eternal' cultural quality; it is a concrete consciousness and with that, concrete struggle" ("AimŽ CŽsaire," 329). Much of Baraka's aesthetics relied on his belief in an inherent, eternal' black identity, which Rolland Murray describes as symptomatic of Black Nationalist philosophy. He writes, Black Power ideology insists that nationalist language steer blacks toward identities that are more true to the black subject's originary essence" (Murray, 306). According to Baraka, this essence had yet to be fully captured by African American writers. In "The Myth of a Negro Literature," Baraka describes the resonances between the francophone literature that preceded NŽgritude and the work that preceded the Black Arts Movement. Echoing CŽsaire's assertion that "we have had no art. No poetry. Rather a hideous leprosy of counterfeits" (quoted in Baraka, "AimŽ CŽsaire," 326) Baraka mourns similar imitative tendencies in African American writing. He writes "High art, first of all, must reflect the experiences of the human being, the emotional predicament of the man, as he exists, in the defined world of his being...Most of the formal literature produced by Somerville P 27


Negroes in America has never fulfilled these conditions" (Baraka, "Myth of a Negro Literature," 167-168). He denounces writing that seeks to assimilate to the white literary canon, or any writing that seems to espouse the values of the white middle class, which he considers spiritually bankrupt. He asks "Where is the Negro-ness of a literature written in imitation of the meanest of social intelligences to be found in American culture, i.e. the white middle class?" (168). As his politics became increasingly radical, his criticism of bourgeois white aesthetics extended to those of the white avant-garde, despite the enormous impact that white modernism and postmodernism had during his formative years. While in the end white postmodernism failed Baraka because it did not (or could not) take into account the reality of African Americans, the white avant-garde did provide a model for rebellion against bourgeois aesthetics, just as surrealism did for CŽsaire. William J. Harris describes Baraka and CŽsaire as "literary terrorists, destroyers of established institutions, not bohemians. Both perceive strains of anarchy, violence, and self-hatred in the white avant-garde tradition" ( The Jazz Aesthetic, 31). White postmodern poets not only demonstrated the destructive capability of letters, but also introduced new ways of thinking about poets' relationship to the process of writing and to their audience. One of the white avant-garde's most significant contributions to Baraka's project was the emphasis it placed on the human voice. Charles Olson's concept of human breath as the basic structural unit of the poem and the poet's speech patterns as the guiding force behind every poem's form had a lasting impact on Baraka. Frank O'Hara's concept of Personism drastically changed Baraka's concept of the poet's ability to directly Somerville P 28


communicate with readers. Speech began to override text, as it allowed the poet to engage in a dialogue with his audience, an important aspect of Baraka's political as well as artistic goals. While these ideas formed the conceptual foundation of his project, Baraka began to strip his project of many of the vestiges of his earlier participation in the Beat and Black Mountain schools as his work become more politically engaged, believing these aspects to hinder the creation of a black voice. In his introduction to his 1965 collection of essays entitled Home: Social Essays he wrote, "Having been taught that art was what white men did,' I almost became one, to have a go at it" (Jones, Home, 22). This realization encouraged a certain level of anti-intellectualism, as he considered the esoteric allusions and neurotic prosodies characteristic of Black Mountain poetry to be indelibly tangled up with white academic institutions. A large part of his project involved unlearning the practices of white poetic tradition, even those which had the strongest influences on him, in order to create a new, uniquely black mode of expression. While in his earlier years he cited Robert Creeley as one of his greatest stylistic influences because of Creeley's innovative way of capturing syntax on the page, he later abandoned these stylistic aspects of his own project. In his 1961 intro to Creeley's A Form of Women he writes "Creeley is always forcing you to rearrange your own eye, to disregard, or abandon any gestalt' that you bring to merely reading a poem" (quoted in Nielson, Integral Music, 103). Writing poems for the page eventually lost its usefulness, as Baraka no longer felt that highly textual poetry embodied his voice as a poet. In an 1978 interview he said of his later work, "It wasn't the little, stylized, Creeley-esque stuff that I Somerville P 29


was doing at the time; it began to be my own kind of sound, my own voice" ("Amiri Baraka: An Interview," 305). Baraka compares his move away from white American postmodernism to CŽsaire's move away from European symbolism. He writes I was tearing away from the "ready-mades" that imitating Creeley (or Olson) provided...So I scrambled, and roamed, sometimes, blindly in my consciousness, to come up with something more essential, more rooted in my deepest experience...It was almost like what CŽsaire had said about how he wrote Return to My Native Land. That he was trying to break away from the heavy influence that French Symbolist poetry had on him. So he decided to write prose to stop writing poetry...showing how even the French language could be transformed by the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and perceptions (quoted in Harris, The Jazz Aesthetic, 32). It was in favor of a "concrete struggle" that Baraka distanced himself from his Beat and Black Mountain influences, deciding to transform his poetic style in order to incorporate what he believed to be essential aspects of black culture. The increasingly radical nature of his work lies not only in its political content but also in its thematic content and style. According to Baraka, one of the most essential aspects of black culture is music. The importance of jazz music to Baraka's work lies partly in its ability to capture the oral traditions of the African American community such as the call and response form used Somerville P 30


by black preachers, the tradition of playful insult called "playing the dozens," and certain storytelling techniques used by African griots. In his critical work, he emphasizes the parallels between black vernacular and black music. He writes "The blues is so basic because it is black speech at its earliest complete articulation as a New World speech...The blues is the actual secular day-to-day language given the grace of poetry" (Baraka, The Music, 262). Historically, black speech has used words from European languages but infused them with different pronunciations and cadences and organized them based on patterns of African speech. Musicians working in black musical traditions have likewise taken notes from the European scale and organized them based on the principles of African music. For Baraka, music and speech collaborate in order to allow the community to rediscover "the beginning of [the African American] sensibility. The new, the primitive,' meaning first, new" (Baraka, "The Changing Same," 201). In addition to providing a connection to an originary experience, black music provides a more powerful connection to the modern black experience than writing. He cites the hollers, chants, arwhoolies, and ballits found in the blues and jazz as "the only consistent exhibitors of NŽgritude' in American culture" ("The Myth of a Negro Literature," 169). Baraka frames poetic practice as an effort to capture the black cultural landscape, which he asserts is dominated by music, not writing. In what William J. Harris calls the "jazzification process" Baraka began to incorporate dancing, scatting, and other oral techniques into his performance practice. Harris points to the political implications of these stylistic choices when he says, "orality is important to the process of jazzification in Somerville P 31


Baraka's art because it challenges the supremacy of the written text, a sacred cow of the Western tradition" ( The Jazz Aesthetic, 104). As his poetry became increasingly invested in music, individual poems began to look more like guidelines as to how they should be performed rather than textual artifacts. When writing about Thelonious Monk, for example, he repeats the sound "duh" to capture Monk's percussive style 2 He writes, "There was nothing left to do but / be where monk cd find him / that crazy / motherfucker / duh duh-duh duh-duh duh / duh duh / duh duh-duh duh-duh duh / duh duh / duh duh-duh duh-duh duh / duh duh" (Baraka, Transbluesency 191). These last lines provide little visual or semantic stimulation. They become meaningful or interesting only when channeled through the human voice. Baraka uses a similar technique later in the poem when he writes about John Coltrane's technique of making the saxophone squeak or scream 3 He writes, "Trane was the spirit of the 60's / He was Malcolm X in New Super Bop Fire / Baaahhhh / WheeeeeeBlack Art!" (191). Baraka elongates "bah" and "whee" to show how they should be spoken, and it is only when they are uttered, or when the reader imagines them being uttered, that one actually hears the musical homage to Coltrane in addition to the explicit reference that the text provides. To say that Baraka championed speech over text is not to say that text and typography disappeared from this project, however. In his introduction to a book of poems by Arthur Pfister Baraka writes, "We talk about the oral tradition of African People, sometimes positively, many times defensively (if we are not wised up), and it's always as a substitute for the written. What this is is foolfood, because we were the first Somerville P 32 2 See track # 1: Monk, "Epistrophy." 3 See track # 2: Coltrane, "Countdown."


writers as well...Thot is the God of writing, its inventor, and African" ("Introduction," 4). In fact, Baraka continued to incorporate purposeful misspellings and unusual typographical constructions of words throughout his career, just like his contemporaries in the Beat and Black Mountain schools. While performance remains more important, Baraka does take advantage of text's ability to reveal the many ways in which his poems engage oral and musical traditions. In addition to expanding individual words upon the page to mimic individual notes, he uses spacing to show a progression of riffs moving around a central melody. Thus poems like "In the Tradition," play with the idea of a musical score. He writes, bee-doo dee doop bee-doo dee dooo doop (Arthur tradition of shooters & silver fast dribblers of real fancy mother fuckers fancy as birds flight, sunward/high highhigh sunward arcs/swoops/spirals in the tradition notes Somerville P 33


eighth notes 16 th notes 32nds, 64ths, 128ths, silver blue ( Transbluesency, 202). Here, Baraka contrasts music as it is experienced in the black tradition with music as it is notated in the Western world. The first stanza of the poem highlights, both visually and thematically, musical movement (and by extension, musical liberation), while the last two stanzas propose and visually signify stagnation and rigidity. In these stanzas, he varies the ways in which he notates units of notation, and in doing so highlights the arbitrariness of textual notation itself. Baraka's relationship to text remains complicated, as it often provides a useful way to capture the very aspects of the black aesthetic that he positions in direct opposition to text-based white aesthetics. As Aldon Nielson notes, Baraka's conflicted relationship to text and his use of it contributed greatly to the formation of modern/ postmodern black poetics. He writes, even at the height of Black Arts movement's calls for a poetic diction rooted in black speech and black music, the typographic representations of that speech were formulated in accordance with poetic practices already worked out by poets such as Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Jayne Cortez, Sonia Sanchez, and David Henderson, Somerville P 34


black poets whose confrontations with modernist poetics on the ground of language established the formal practices followed by subsequent African American writers intent upon locating a black aesthetic in traditions of black orality and musical improvisation. ( Black Chant 9) While Baraka's career as a whole suggests that performance rather than text drives his aesthetic, text remains a useful mechanism, illuminating aspects of his poetics that are unavailable to listeners. Black Arts Movement poets' preference for the spoken word, and their belief that music and performance poetry can resurrect or recreate a sort of primal experience shared by peoples of the African Diaspora would be challenged by intellectuals in future decades. The emergence of poststructuralist thought, with its suspicion of language and its disbelief in the ability to recreate a shared experience, had an enormous impact on writers in the 1970's and beyond. Nathaniel Mackey and his contemporaries developed different ideas about the agency of speech in black art and the social function of art in the African American community. The Legacy of Poststructuralism later interpretations of orality and textuality in black experimental writing Without the same political agenda (or rather, without an explicit political agenda at all), Nathaniel Mackey does not share Baraka's preoccupations with accessibility and Somerville P 35


the political potency of spoken language. While the poetics of NŽgritude remained important for Mackey, the politics of NŽgritude did not. Mackey's concept of the connection between art and cultural politics seems more akin to that of Glissant than CŽsaire. In "On Edge," Mackey states that "it is instructive to listen to others who...come from communities we tend to think of as oral. Their remarks on the orality versus literacy question provide an antidote to the either/or, too easy infatuation with the oral that ethnopoetics might lapse into" ("On Edge 261). Calling into question the descriptive capabilities of language and speech, Mackey often uses speech in conjunction with text in order to deconstruct the words on the page. In Mackey's world, the incertitude of words denies them their status as "miraculous weapons." Themes of lack and futility reappear frequently throughout his writing, often in the shape of a phantom limb. This has linguistic as well as mythical implications. It points to Julia Kristeva's description of the "loss of the primal object" that occurs upon the childhood acquisition of language, leading to verbal sequences that turn up "only if a trans-position is substituted for a more or less symbiotic primal object, this transposition being a true reconstitution that retroactively gives form and meaning to the primal thing" (Kristeva, 41). Following Kristeva, Devin Johnston asserts that in Mackey's work, "Language...serves as but the phantom remainder of an originary experience" (Johnston, 563). The uneasy grasp that all humans have on language and the frequent discrepancies between words and the objects or ideas that they are supposed to represent are what produce art. Somerville P 36


Meanings proliferate in the liminal space between the signifier and the signified. Mackey valorizes of the aural qualities of speech that represent this space, such as grating sounds, created by African instruments like cowrie shells, or the raspiness associated with the Andalusian singing technique known as duende. In his critical work, Nathaniel Mackey frequently alludes to Louis Zukofsky's assertion that the lower limit of poetry is speech, while its upper limit is song. In his own conception of music, music and language have a self-reflexive relationship their impact on each other appears limitless. Music shares a lot of the same functions as speech in his work sometimes its expressive capabilities appear to surpass those of speech. Mackey writes, "Calls and music both put sound in the service of sentience. In this they differ from speech, which valorizes the sentence, the humanly constructed realm of meaning, grammaticality, predication" ("Other: From Noun to Verb," 279). In Bedouin Hornbook, N.'s written communication with the Angel of Dust often seems inadequate. While we don't get to see the Angel of Dust's responses, N. often needs to explain or retract words that he's used in previous correspondences after realizing that they don't suffice or that they imply something which he doesn't want to express. He often sends tapes in order to give the Angel of Dust a better understanding of the issues at hand, yet it is unclear whether the issues will ever be solved, or even fully understood, through the mechanism of language. While speech plays an incredibly powerful role in the music that informs Mackey's work, Mackey refuses to attribute to it the ability to capture any sort of lived reality. Noting the "speech-like qualities of instruments as they are played in African American music," he writes, Somerville P 37


Built into that is some kind of dissatisfaction with if not critique of the limits of conventionally articulate speech, verbal speech. One of the reasons the music so often goes over into nonspeech moaning, humming, shouts, nonsense lyrics, scat is to say, among other things, that the realm of conventionally articulate speech is not sufficient for saying what needs to be said." ("Cante Moro," 193) For Mackey, "what needs to be said," is often an exploration of meaning rather than a concrete statement. While music remains an effective method of discovery, often surpassing speech in its ability to facilitate spiritual transcendence, even music lacks the certitude that would render it useful to a political project. In his critical work, Mackey incorporates musicologist Victor Zuckerkandl's view that music is comprised of tones pointing to other tones. Zuckerkandl's assertion that tones are motion contexts, kinetic contexts... conveyors of a motion that goes through them and beyond them" recalls Derrida's concept of diffŽrance making the song another unstable chain of signification (Zuckerkandl, 76) This conception of music makes it hard to pin down, let alone portray as a viable agent of social or political revolution. While artistic production remains central in Mackey's fiction, his uneasiness with the mimetic capabilities of music and language comes out frequently. In Bedouin Hornbook, Mackey frames a jazz performance in highly poststructuralist terms. In one letter, N. describes the solo performance of Lambert, another member of the Mystic Horn Society. He says, "I was also impressed by the self-inquisitive tactic he resorted to at Somerville P 38


times, posing pairs of like-sounding words against one another as indecisive notes' of an indeterminate scale.' I recall him asking at one point, Eventual or eventful? Basis or bias? Composite or compost? Concept or conceit?'" (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 39). The slippage of signifiers pointed to by Lambert suggests that language is an insecure medium for imitating music, which is itself an insecure medium. However, this is not to say that the interaction of language and music aren't productive, as each constantly complicates the other and renders it more compelling in the process. This reflexive relationship between language and music registers with the audience on a simultaneously aural and textual plane. In Bedouin Hornbook, N. attends a musical performance which ultimately generates text. Throughout the performance, the music inspires numerous philosophical quandaries, quandaries which seem to be worked through by all members of the audience without actually discussing them. What N. describes as the tenor's "endlessly caressive ritual of adoration, a grammatology of touch" causes him to reflect on a long-lost love (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 95). The theme of loss resonates with N.'s neighbors in the crowd, eventually precipitating a white balloon with "Only One" written in black. The balloon and the text on it become an integral part of the performance, floating among the audience and the band. Aural resonances coincide with semantic resonances, unveiling possible similarities in semantic content. Music can aid in the connection between seemingly disparate ideas, but not without the help of both text and speech. We see a similar incident occur later in Bedouin Hornbook, when the written text on a record cover allows N. to see the connection between a piece that he had described Somerville P 39


to the Angel of Dust and a musical recording by Thelonius Monk that the Angel of Dust sends to him in response. When N. hears the Monk recording, he cannot understand how it relates to the performance of the Toupouri Wind Ensemble's Harvest Song that he had described in a previous letter. He had stated that "the apt unlikeliness of such a roar' confirms a dreamer's agenda: feathered sleep, vicarious flight, night's outbreak of sound" ( Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 115). It is not until he he sees on the liner notes of the Monk record that the tenor saxophonist on the record is named Johnny Griffin that he understands the Angel of Dust's proposal. The thought of the "fabulous beast" (118) known as the griffin sets off a chain reaction of images and ideas, including the lion on the cover of Bob Marley's album Exodus and an anecdote about Monk crawling to the bar on all fours and growling a demand for a drink. The reader can then go back to N.'s original statement and from there forge links. The word "vicarious" forms a visual and aural rhyme with the word "Icarus" that is not readily apparent upon the first reading. Icarus's escape from imprisonment, or his "outbreak," recalls the word "exodus" as it is used to refer to the Israelites escaping Egypt. The visual of the lion with wing-like flags behind it on the cover of Exodus recalls both the griffin and Monk's lion-like behavior, which all connects back to the roaring N. heard during the Toupouri Wind Harvest Ensemble performance. While within the story music remains the primary mechanism for connecting all of these ideas, the permanence of the written word allows the reader to go back and re-examine N.'s train of thought, enriching his or her understanding of N's dialogue with the Angel of Dust. In instances like this, the deconstruction of terms allows Somerville P 40


Mackey to pull together myths of disparate cultural and ethnic origins, an essential aspect of Mackey's project. Like Glissant, Mackey refuses to position black/eastern culture in direct opposition to white/Western culture. Much of what drives his work are the underlying themes in the myths and art from varying cultures. One of these recurring themes is that of loss or spiritual disconnect, which, while characteristic of the African Diasporic experience, is not limited to Diasporic discourse. Richard Quinn writes that in Mackey's work, "the aural oscillation and phantom limb, improvisation and absence, work to dismantle duality while constructing a matrix of a richer, processual, and shared origin" (Quinn, 615). On a social/cultural plane, separation and loss are unifying rather than divisional. The idea of an unbridgeable spiritual gap appears in the image of the abyss in Mackey's prose and poetry. While in CŽsaire's work the ocean represents an avenue for cultural and spiritual renewal for members of the African Diaspora, Glissant and Mackey frame it as a representation of cross-cultural spiritual disconnect. Their interpretation of the abyss is best expressed in Glissant's statement to members of the African Diaspora in "The Open Boat." Glissant writes, "For though this experience made you, original victim floating toward the sea's abysses, an exception, it became something shared and made us, the descendants, one people among others. People do not live on exception. Relation is not made up of things that are foreign but of shared knowledge. This experience of abyss can now be said to be the best element of exchange" ("The Open Boat," 8). Somerville P 41


One example of Mackey's abyssal aesthetic would be his frequent allusions to the lost continent of Mu, a popular myth that also serves as the title to a musical series by trumpeter Don Cherry. In his introduction to Splay Anthem, Mackey notes the word mu 's relationship to both linguistic utterance and spiritual severance, tracing it to the greek word muthos, the root of both "mouth" and "myth." He writes that "Mu is lingual and erotic allure, mouth and muse, mouth not only noun but verb and muse likewise, lingual and imaginal process, prod and process" (Mackey, Splay Anthem, x). He writes that myths like that of Mu thrive on "quixotic persistence, the increment or enablement language affords, promise and impossibility all rolled into one...Mu' carries a theme of utopic reverie, a theme of lost ground and elegiac allure...Any longingly imagined, mourned or remembered place, time, state, or condition can be called Mu'" ( x ). In some installments of his long serial poem "Mu," Mackey refers to the island stylistically as well as thematically by drawing a long line halfway across the page, under which he writes. Visually these lines insinuate that the poem is submerged. They also recall the Lacanian bar of psychological repression and linguistic signification. In fact, Mackey's allusions to the Mu/Atlantis myth elicits the same notions of loss, separation, and uncertainty that characterize Lacan's linguistic/psychological theories. Mackey thematically alludes to the island of Mu in "Beginning with Lines by Anwar Naguib," describing the journey of an unidentified "we" to a "heavenly city" aboard an "ythmic ship" ( Splay Anthem, 8). "Ythmic," simultaneously an anagram for mythic and evocative of rhythmic, demonstrates the deeply interwoven nature of music's relationship to language and myth within Mackey's artistic framework. Like in his Somerville P 42


fiction, Mackey relies on both the visual and the aural to complicate this relationship. Following "Beginning with Lines by Anwar Naguib" are two untitled poems both written beneath bars. They are possibly continuations of the poem, or could be free-standing installments of one of the longer serial poems running throughout Splay Anthem. These two poems run with the themes of longing, unattainability, and inarticulacy. An unidentified "they," seeming to be the same "we" from "Beginning with Lines by Anwar Naguib," lies on their backs, "wanting more than was / there / ever there, a blanket their / ostensible boat, stroked gutstrings, / islands / underneath" (Mackey, Splay Anthem, 12). He later reiterates this wanting as "a dreamt we beyond our / reach" (12). The idea of imagined but unrealized identity, taken in consideration along with the algorithmic spacing of the poem, recalls Lacan's refusal to attach identity to the signifier / signified axis, leaving identity forever in the unavailable realm of the subconscious or signified. The speakers' longing remains, eventually expressing itself through sound, although not via articulate speech. Instead, "we" recalls "wrack chatter / later / dubbed loquat scat" (12). This then turns into silent searching in the act of kissing, which the speaker describes as "reconnoitering mouth / mouth rummaging mouth" (13). However, this act ultimately fails to satisfy "we's" desire or curiosity, for "what where was left / left/ atless, unavailable, amiss, / mu' irredentist / even so" (13). While the poetry in Splay Anthem does not immediately appear to be heavily invested in typography and generally maintains the same format throughout (centered text with short lines and similarly structured stanzas), text remains an indispensable element in his poetic project. Both the "Mu" and the "Song of the Andoumboulou" series Somerville P 43


treat a limited scope of topics using a limited lexicon, featuring neither an identifiable speaker nor any lyric narrative. Because of this, any movement that occurs depends on the dismantling of words. "Beginning with Lines by Anwar Naguib" serves again as a useful example, as it highlights the many meanings of the word "book." In the first appearance of the word, Mackey seems to designate "book" as a signifier rather than as the object by placing it in between quotes. He writes, "inveterate / boast, / book' bound for heaven" ( Splay Anthem, 8). In doing so, he also suggests other meanings for "bound." If book is the name of a mobile entity, than "bound for" means headed towards. If book is the object we assume the word "book" refers to, than "bound for" becomes the past tense of bind for, making heaven a recipient rather than a destination. Book reappears, this time more definitely as an object, in the lines "wind ruffling a dog-eared / book" (9). However, it does not remain an object, for later on "book' meant get / away, / run..." (9). It is via text, in this case the use of quotes, that Mackey calls the reader's attention towards the tentative status of "book", which readers might otherwise automatically take as a reference to the object, a signified upon which readers assume everyone agrees. While hearing Mackey's poetry read aloud emphasizes its musicality and the aural resonances that make his "puncepts" possible, a large portion of Mackey's poetic project can only be understood by examining the text. Text serves an equally vital function when reading his fiction, as it gives the reader a permanent map of N.'s often labyrinthian thought process. While human speech and music are essential parts of Mackey's artistic world, they often only achieve their full impact on Mackey's characters when acting in conjunction with text. Unlike Baraka, Mackey does not necessarily champion music over Somerville P 44


language, nor speech over text. While they remain important, neither music nor speech override text the way they often do in Baraka's work. Conclusion While there are numerous ways to account for the ideological rift between Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey, poststructuralist thought seems to have deeply impacted their relationship to their literary influences, their vision of art's relationship to society, and the status of oral versus textual expression in their projects. Poststructuralism can likewise account for similar differences between the projects of writers outside the United States. While the poststructuralist movement affected intellectuals across cultures, its theories had political implications specific to the African Diaspora, where orality and text have historically been held in different esteems, and where art is often tangled up in racial and cultural politics. Unlike Baraka, Mackey does not disavow the "textiness" that characterizes the work of the white experimental writers who influenced him (most notably Robert Duncan), nor does he dismiss esoteric discourse because of its lack of political/social efficacy. Baraka's speech-based or voice-based poetic approach gives the reader an idea of his speech patterns and a clear sense of the political/social milieu in which he works. While text often serves a useful purpose in Baraka's poetry, the bulk of Baraka's work does not reward in-depth textual analysis. It remains largely performance-based work, which will be discussed further in the next chapter. In Mackey's work, text fulfills not Somerville P 45


only a useful but a necessary function. The unraveling of each signifier creates new threads, which can then be cast out to link seemingly disparate topics and myths from numerous cultures. However, the more links are made the more complicated the status of the signifier, bringing the reader further from rather than closer to a signified. The incertitude of language and the mutability of identity that poststructuralist theory emphasizes drastically effects Mackey's project on and off the page, as evidenced by his minimal, perhaps non-existent performance aesthetic. Somerville P 46


Chapter 2 Interpretations of the jazz performance and the incorporation of jazz technique "I'll play it first and tell you what it is later." Miles Davis, Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, 1957 4 Introduction Poststructuralist thought drastically changed the way black experimental writers conceived of poetry's ability to capture jazz on the page. It also affected many writers' views on performance. The live jazz performance has always played a complex role in jazz poetry and fiction. As a temporal and aural event, it remains difficult to capture through a medium as permanent and as visual as text. Jazz writers confront the limitations of language as a vehicle for treating non-verbal music, yet still rely on language as their primary medium. Many grapple with the cumbersome historical baggage that accompanies the often unflattering image of the black performer, yet simultaneously valorize musical performance as an essential part of black culture. Since the Beat era, jazz inflected poetry readings and musical collaborations have played a crucial role in the world of jazz poetry. While poststructuralism did not make poetry performance unimportant across the boardindeed, Slam or spoken word poetry remains extremely popular poststructuralist thought did challenge the certitude usually Somerville P 47 4 See track # 3: Davis, "Studio Chatter."


associated with spoken language, as well as spoken language's potency in the social/ political realm. Furthermore, poststructuralism's challenge to traditional ideas of identity complicated the concept of creating a persona around the writer. For some jazz writers working in poststructuralism's wake, performance conventions became problematic. When incorporating jazz performances into their written work, and when performing their work for an audience, Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey navigate the tenuous relationships between music, language, art and politics in different ways to achieve different goals. Key elements of jazz performance, such as improvisation, collaboration, and repetition are essential to their artistic projects. In their written works, Baraka and Mackey characterize the jazz performance as the culmination of black cultural values and musical techniques. Both consider it a powerful vehicle for sustaining African heritage and for advancing the culture of the modern African Diaspora. However, the degree to which the two writers incorporate these elements into their personal performances differs depending on their political agendas (or lack thereof) and the impact they desire to have on their audience. Audience The jazz musician's relationship to audience has shifted throughout the decades, often in accordance with changing race relations in the United States. As Mackey notes in "Other: From Noun to Verb," the image of the black artist as thoughtless entertainer has haunted the black artistic community since the era of minstrel shows. The smiling black Somerville P 48


musician, easily accepted by the middle class and white communities, remained a figurehead through the swing era. With the emergence of bebop came a new kind of attitude towards the audience. Typically consisting of small combos rather than big bands, bebop pieces gave the soloist more freedom. Unlike swing, which had fallen prey to a commercialized "sameness of sound and style," bebop "accented individual expression" (Mackey, "Other: From Noun to Verb," 275). Bebop's emphasis on the soloist's personal innovation allowed the performer to be received as a serious artist rather than a member of a uniform group or its endearing frontman, the only two roles available to swing musicians. Bebop allowed the jazz musician to, for the first time, demand that his audience engage with his work as art rather than as entertainment. Miles Davis in particular serves as a revolutionary figure for both Baraka and Mackey because of his refusal to engage with the audience, sometimes even going as far as to turn his back on them. Mackey quotes him saying, "I didn't look at myself as an entertainer like [Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie] did. I wanted to be accepted as a good musician and that didn't call for no grinning, but just being able to play the horn good" (qtd. in Mackey, "Blue in Green ," 200). While Davis's gesture had an equally powerful impact on Baraka and Mackey's performance aesthetics, they interpret his attitude differently. For Baraka, Davis's performances came to represent radical politics as well as radical musical techniques. He represented "a black attitude that had grown steadily more ubiquitous in the fifties defiance, a redefined, contemporary function of the culturally traditional resistance of blacks to slavery and then national oppression" (Baraka, "Miles Davis," 66). Baraka channeled Davis's perceived defiance Somerville P 49


into creating his own defiant persona, albeit one intended to shock and perhaps offend listeners rather than disregard them. Baraka's belief in performed language's power to build communities and forge identity inspired his continual search for an authentic black sound. In his discussion of Amiri Baraka's use of performative language, Rolland Murray situates him within the context of Black Nationalism. He writes, With a sense of language as a social agent, Black Power advocates stress that nationalist utterance works dialectically to disentangle black subjects from the ideologies that interpellate them within white American nationalism and to form an alternative grounds for being" (Murray, 305-306). Baraka's goal was not only to invoke black tradition, but also to actively create an identity uninformed by white aesthetics In "How You Sound??" William J. Harris traces the evolution of Baraka's performance from a 1964 reading of "Black Dada Nihilismus" to his 1967 reading of "Black Art." 5 Harris notes that "Black Dada" retains "Eliotic language, rhythms, and imagery, and draws heavily on "white middle-class literary and verbal conventions of the time" ("How you Sound??," 314). He writes, "[Baraka] has not found the huge black voice,' the voice transformed by the vernacular, the chant and scream" (314). Baraka continued to strip his performances of any vestiges of his middleclass upbringing or his previous association with the Greenwich village Beats. According to Harris, by the time he performed "Black Art" he "learned to speak in a distinctive African American voice, or at least one fully informed by the African American sound tradition" (321). Somerville P 50 5 See track # 4: Baraka with the New York Art Quartet, "Black Dada Nihilismus," and track # 5: Baraka and Sonny Murray, "Black Art."


Although Baraka's political attitudes are anything but traditional, he works within a strong black tradition of couching political and social protest in art. Baraka's critical work suggests that jazz (more specifically Be-bop and post-bop jazz) contains the most compelling form of protest, despite being mostly non-verbal, because of its eschewal of Western modes of expression. By vocalizing the sentiments that he believes underlie all black music, he aggressively fortifies the links between musical and social revolution in his written work, often portraying the jazz performance as a call to arms. In his short story "The Screamers," for example, a jazz performance actually incites a revolution the musicians and the audience go out into the streets, stopping traffic, walking on the roofs of cars and disrupting order. His poetry readings convey a similar sense of urgency. The efficacy of Baraka's readings lies in channeling the power of performative language. In "How the Conjure Man Gets Busy," Rolland Murray writes that Baraka produced a discourse in which the black male subject's mastery of performative linguistic rituals was to be instrumental in the fashioning of a nationalist political consciousness" (Murray, 301). Contrary to Miles Davis, whose performance technique implied that he didn't necessarily care whether or not his audience understood his music, Baraka is heavily invested in making a pronounced political impact. While Davis turned his back to the audience, Baraka gets in its face. He uses jazz music, whether via musicians he collaborates with or via his own vocal mimicry of jazz instruments, to underscore the particularly bombastic lines in his poems. In his 1967 recording of "Black Art," for example, he crescendoes towards the violent conclusion of the poem, mimicking the sounds of "airplane poems" that will "kill whitey," as well as Somerville P 51


the sound of poems that "scream poison gas on beasts in green berets" (Baraka, "Black Art"). His vocal screaming is accompanied by the squeal of Albert Ayler's saxophone and Don Cherry's trumpet, as well as the fast drumming of Sonny Murray. By placing the instruments' screeching alongside revolutionary sentiment, Baraka makes glaringly evident the links he sees between avant-garde jazz and social upheaval. Despite the images of rioting found in his poems, it remains doubtful that Baraka's earlier work should be taken as an incitement of physical violence the majority of his poems propose artistic violence against white aesthetics rather than physical violence against white people. Aware of his often racially mixed audience, its possible that Baraka purposefully refuses to make this distinction clear. Rather than actually proposing theft, physical violence or rape he toys with the deeply imbedded fear of black men in the white community. The attitudes suggested by his work pegged him as a dangerous political rebel, actually contributing to his conviction for unlawful possession of firearms during the Newark riots of 1967. While handing out an unusually strict sentence, Judge Leon Kapp read from a 1965 poem the lines "Up against the wall mother fucker / this is a stick up!... Run up and down Broad street niggers take / the shit you want. Take their lives if need be" (quoted in Matlin, 104). While the only rebellion Baraka ever directly participated in was artistic in nature (his conviction was successfully appealed only days after the trial), Baraka's work in the early 1960's aligned him with what critic Michelle Wallace calls the "narcissistic macho" thrust of the Black Power movement (quoted in Matlin, 93). Fashioning himself as an Eldridge Cleaver of the art world, Baraka constructed his Black Nationalist persona Somerville P 52


around a stereotype that was familiar to white middle-class audiences, and in doing so forced them to confront their preconceptions. Baraka addresses many of his poems and presumably directs his performances towards specific audiences, as evidenced by poem titles like "Black People," "Beautiful Black Women," or "A poem for Half-White College Students." Despite his primary interest in communicating to the black community, he nevertheless remains extremely conscious of the social influence of white and middle-class communities and the influence of his own "whitened black middle-class heritage" on his poetic project (Harris, "How You Sound??" 317). It seems that white middle-class culture has an equally strong impact on his performance aesthetic as black culture, although it serves as a deterrent rather than as an example. By seeking to provoke the prejudice of white and middle-class audiences, he never truly turns his back on them. For Nathaniel Mackey, the importance of Miles Davis's performance technique lies more in its demonstration of what he calls "black interiority" or black self-reflection than in its demonstration of social/political defiance. In his essay "Blue in Green: Black Interiority," Mackey discusses the ways in which Davis's music serves as a testament to his intellectualism, something not traditionally associated with black musicians in the eyes of mainstream America. Davis's aversion to fanfares and other musical vestiges of showmanship frames music as personal rumination rather than as public entertainment. Mackey compares Davis's introduction of his quintet's rendition of "Round Midnight" to Dizzy Gillespie's introduction to an earlier rendition of the same piece 6 He writes that Somerville P 53 6 See track # 6: Gillespie, "Round Midnight," and track # 7: Davis, "Round Midnight."


unlike Gillespie's "bravura introduction," where "something [is] heralded," Davis's introduction "introduces us into what's already underway, already there. We're not so much addressed as allowed to listen in, given the sense that he's completing a thought whose beginning we've not been privy to" (Mackey, "Blue in Green," 201). Baraka seems to perceive Davis turning his back on a specifically white audience, rejecting the machinery of commodification. Mackey's portrays this same gesture in a different way Davis turns his back to all audience members, refusing to lay out his project for them in a way that would diminish the intellectual challenge that his work poses to listeners. Mackey's own performance technique indicates a similar impulse. In "SightSpecific, Sound-Specific," he discusses the problematic relationship that writerly poets like himself have to performance. He writes, "performance art, poetry slams, and the like have made the term synonymous with theatricality, a recourse to dramatic, declamatory, and other tactics aimed at propping up words or at helping them out words regarded, either way, as needing help, support, embellishment, deficient or decrepit or even dead left on their own" (Mackey, "Sight-Specific," 228). Mackey's readings do not include any of the trappings of performance art. Keeping with the Derridean philosophy that "the text deconstructs itself," he refuses to use his own voice to spoon-feed the audience the implications that are imbedded in the work. This suggests that dramatic performance might distract the audience from the richness of his poems, which are as equally grounded in text as they are in speech. Mackey's refusal to detract from the cerebral elements of his work sets him apart from many poets. While Mackey's work is hardly conventional, his attitudes about Somerville P 54


performance and audience recall the ideas of more traditional thinkers like Theodore Adorno. While Adorno's assessment of jazz seems misguided and extremely Eurocentric from a modern perspective, his essays on popular music provide an interesting model for thinking about an audience's relationship to art. Adorno's major critique of jazz was jazz musicians' continual use of standard "tricks" to make music more appealing to man's "baser" self. Adorno concludes that by making Western musical standards "jazzy" (for example, by using syncopated rhythms), the jazz musician partakes in "mechanical soullessness" and "licentious decadence" ("On Jazz," 470). Both Baraka and Mackey have a much more advanced understanding of jazz and its cultural roots than Adorno and thus appreciate the same elements that often cause Adorno to dismiss it. However, Mackey's aversion to what William Harris would call "jazzification" in his readings suggests a desire to avoid the "licentious decadence" that Adorno describes. Mackey's refusal to use performance to appeal to or to provoke his audience can also be attributed to his ambiguous demographic. It's hard to determine who Mackey addresses in his work in terms of class, ethnicity, or political affiliations. In an interview with Christopher Funkhouser, Mackey said "I can't say that I'm putting it out there with a particular audience in mind... I think about doing what makes sense to me, what is meaningful to me, with the conviction that there are other people that it will make sense to, be meaningful to, and with the hope that what I'm doing will find its way to them and they'll find their way to it" (Mackey, "Interview by Christopher Funkhouser," 254). The audiences in Mackey's fiction are likewise drawn together by similar interests and inclinations. In Bedouin Hornbook, a performance literally "finds its way" to the Somerville P 55


audience member N. After inquiring about a group called the Crossroads Choir for some time, N. receives a phone call instructing him to go to a designated location alone, on foot, carrying the horn of his choice. There, he is picked up in a van and given a colorless, odorless liquid to drink that puts him in a hallucinatory state. He changes location frequently, unable to discern where he is each time. Finally, he finds himself in a domed arena, among a "faceless crowd" with the same "blank, laconic stare...on every rounded, metaphysical' head" (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 96-97 ). By indicating that everyone in the audience shares the same ambiguous metaphysical' identity, Mackey suggests that the efficacy of the performance lies in spiritual transcendence rather than political mobilization. Mackey frames the audience as a group of potential cult members waiting to be initiated rather than as a group of potential revolutionaries waiting to be incited. Performances evoke the cross-cultural notions of disconnect, unattainability, futility, and dismemberment that characterize Mackey's work. During the Crossroads Choir performance, the band and the audience tap into the same pool, something like a Jungian collective unconscious. The music causes N. to launch into various philosophical quandaries that the band subsequently addresses. He hears a "shadowlike report, which...induct[s] [him] into a dance whose disjointed aspects embraced an untested need I felt to investigate fear" (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 100). He then says, "it was evidently a need I shared with others," for the band instantly responds to his feeling of disjointedness by playing the song "Body and Soul" (100-101). Somerville P 56


The performances described often cause the listeners to recall and even viscerally relive events from their own past, or even to experience sensations to which they've never had direct access. During the Crossroads Choir performance, N. becomes overwhelmed by the memory of a car accident from his youth. He links this phenomenon to the sounds of cowrie shells, traditionally attached to calabash gourds to create a "raspy, buzzing sound" (Mackey, "Cante Moro," 197). According to Mackey, cowrie shells signal African music's reluctance to "let a tone sit in some uncomplicated, isolated, supposedly pure sense of self" (197). Throughout the rest of From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, N. suffers from what he calls "cowrie-shell attacks" that cause him to reexperience having shards of glass lodged in his forehead, ensuing in dizzy spells. The cowrie shells unsettle N.'s body the way that they are intended to unsettle music, destabilizing his concept of selfhood. Throughout Mackey's fiction series it is often in an unconscious or otherwise hallucinatory state that N. feels a visceral connection to his cultural roots, for example his ability to taste the acidity of a grass skirt in his mouth while he's dreaming in Bedouin Hornbook (99) However, his hallucinations take him through a broad spectrum of times and places, as he traces musical allusions to topics originating from regions all over the globe. In Mackey's rhizomatic artistic world, jazz's ability to communicate to the audience on a sub-conscious or rather super-conscious plane makes it a vehicle for discourse on subjects including but not limited to contemporary politics in the United States. It wouldn't make sense for Mackey to attempt to use his poetry performances to impact the social and political consciousness of his audience the way that Baraka does, as Somerville P 57


the origins of his audience could be as diverse and as difficult to pin down as the mythology that informs his project. No matter what the dynamics of the audience, Mackey demands that it engage with the work on an intellectual level. Anyone uninterested in or unable to understand the material would not be able to rely on the performer for entertainment. The uniformity of his delivery negates any sense of urgency. Without the same hang-ups about the influence of white tradition that Baraka has, he is not compelled to create a persona or performance aesthetic grounded totally in African American tradition or completely geared towards a specifically African American audience. In an essay on the influence of Robert Duncan Mackey states, "The artist...however he might opt for insulation or exemption, cannot help but suffer the content of the art" ("Gassire's Lute," 85). Because his art is imbued with influence from the white avant-garde, he cannot remove himself completely from the austerity and emphasis on text that characterize the practice of some of his greatest influences, such as H.D. Because Baraka and Mackey have different audiences in mind (or in Mackey's case no particular audience in mind), they provide different experiences for listeners. While Baraka's incorporation of post-bop jazz and his inflammatory content may have been unique to the Black Arts Movement era, his dramatic reading techniques have deep roots in conventional institutions, namely the black church. This likens his audience to a congregation, inspired by his performance and thus more open to the political statements embedded in his work. Mackey's readers find themselves in a different state. Norman Finkelstein describes Mackey as "a latter-day shaman...taking possession of [readers] and Somerville P 58


carrying them beyond themselves" (Finkelstein, 26). The distinction between Baraka and Mackey as performers is comparable to the distinction between preacher and shaman. Baraka's political agenda requires a certain amount of clarity. Part of the reason he abandoned the intellectualism found in Black Mountain poetics is because he no long found that kind of obscurity useful. This makes sense in a religious context, as according to Finkelstein, "Esoterism as a textual practice is fundamentally disruptive of normative religious belief" (27). Although Baraka's project is an atheist one, he channels the power that performative utterance has historically held in the black religious community, using techniques that have marked the practice of "religiously normative" artists and spiritual leaders. While Baraka's content might be radical, his use of musicality as a rhetorical tool isn't. The spirituality that forms the foundation to Mackey's work, on the other hand, is anything but readily interpretable. Because Mackey's work is saturated with esoteric knowledge, his readers are forced to familiarize themselves with his central preoccupations. Finkelstein writes, "Shamanism in tribal, oral, culture; exegetical mysticism in religious literate culture ; poetry in modern, secular culture all call equally for initiation leading to gnosis" (Finklestein, 32). As a performer, Mackey offers no assistance. As a writer, he makes an incalculable amount of aural, visual, and associative connections in every piece that he composes, complicating rather than clarifying concepts. Like N., who must drug himself into a hallucinatory state in order to watch the Crossroads Choir perform, Mackey's readers have to surrender to the unsettling effect of his writing. Baraka has a clear vision of whom he addresses and how he wants them to Somerville P 59


react to his performances. Mackey, on the other hand, turns his back, hoping that whoever is behind him is up to the challenge that his work poses. Improvisation Despite Baraka and Mackey's discrepant attitudes towards their audience and towards performance's impact on society, the jazz performance holds an equally privileged status in their creative work. One of the most, if not the most, distinctive elements of the avant-garde jazz performance is improvisation. Despite the misleading title of their sub-genre, "free" jazz musicians work within a specific framework, expounding upon previously composed melodies or working off of melodic riffs proposed by other members of the group. The genius of the free jazz musician's ability to improvise comes from an elevated understanding of music and an extreme dedication to craft. Improvisational music has a long history in African culture, often tied to spiritual practices. In many cultures, musicians are often said to channel spirits in the act of improvisation. According to Mackey, improvisation points to the "shamanic roots of music, its magico-prophetic role" ("Other: From Noun to Verb," 277). He quotes Ellen B. Basso's analysis of Kalapo rituals, in which Basso describes a "hyperanimacy" that the individual musician achieves during performance. It is a "multiplicity of feeling and consequent unpredictability" that renders them powerful beings. (quoted in "Other: From Noun to Verb," 277). Thus the individual would often gain a certain level of spiritual and consequently social power through his or her improvisational skills. Somerville P 60


In the United States, intellectuals have linked improvisation to the formation and assertion of a black identity in the face of white middle-class conformity. In "Other: From Noun to Verb," Mackey notes that in reaction to the uniformity of musicians in the bigbands of the swing era, bebop gave the individual more agency in the performance. Often musicians would take an old musical standard and improvise on it, playing around the central melody and producing something radically different from what audiences were used to hearing. As a result, many black intellectuals have interpreted innovative improvisational techniques as an attack on traditional Western modes. Mackey, for example, describes John Coltrane's playing as, A deliberate affront to the dominant culture's canons of musicality... 'honking' challenges and delegitimates that culture's distinction between music and noise, its imposition of hegemonic expectations as to what constitutes acceptable sound" ("The Changing Same," 29). When Coltrane used these techniques in his own renditions of Western standards, he implied a certain commentary on them. A notable example of this would be his rendition of "My Favorite Things," which Baraka's contemporary Sonia Sanchez portrays as a purposeful dismembering of the melody and by extension an attack on the cultural values that The Sound of Music represents 7 In "a/Coltrane/poem," Sanchez works within the Black Arts Movement tradition of framing bebop musicians (John Coltrane especially) as models of the black revolutionary. She projects an agenda onto the music, or rather teases out the statements she believes to be embedded in it when she writes, "rise up blk/people / de dum da da da da / move straight in yo/blkness / da dum da da da Somerville P 61 7 see track # 8: Coltrane, "My Favorite Things."


da / step over the wite/ness / that is yesssss terrrr day / weeeeeee are tooooooooooooday" (Sanchez, 186). Baraka casts the jazz musician in a similarly revolutionary light. According to William J. Harris, "Baraka also wants to take weak Western forms, rip them asunder and create something new out of the rubble. He transposes Coltrane's musical ideas to poetry, using them to turn white poetic forms backwards and upside down. This murderous impulse is behind all the forms of Baraka's aesthetic and art" ( The Jazz Aesthetic, 15). What Baraka calls bebop's "willfully harsh, anti-assimilationist sound" made it a very powerful model for his poetic practice and his performance style ( Blues People, 181-182). In addition to contributing to Baraka's conception of jazz as a revolutionary art form, the improvised jazz performance serves as a conceptual and stylistic model because of it's ability to illuminate the act of jazz composition as it takes place. As Mackey notes, "the closeness of improvised music to the primacy of process is the quality Baraka strives for in his poems" ("The Changing Same," 32). Mackey attributes this to "a spiritualistic bias against the artifactual" (32). The unscripted nature of Baraka's readings implies immediacy the performance is driven by the energy of the poet's surroundings. In this respect, Baraka continues to work within the tradition of projectivist poets like Charles Olson. In one of his earlier essays, "How You Sound??," Baraka echoes Olson's statement "Who knows what a poem aught to sound like? Until its thar." (quoted in Baraka, "How You Sound??," 16). While he shed the obscurity that characterized his earlier Black-Mountain influenced poetry, he continued to value the white avant-garde's Somerville P 62


emphasis on process, and much of his performance aesthetic focused on illuminating the creative process. Like the musicians that subverted Western musical standards in order to create an authentic form of black expression, Baraka fused the techniques of the white avant-garde milieu within which he works with the more radical improvisational techniques of jazz performers. While scatting and singing during poetry readings was introduced by the Beats, Baraka's increasingly radical politics led him even further away from text-based poetics than his contemporaries. As he transitioned to a black nationalist poet, his poems began to read more like performance guidelines, allowing Baraka to make even more variations and blend in more scatting, slurring, and percussive elements. Individual performances of poems are never the same, as multiple recordings indicate. Baraka's movement away from the poem on the page to the poem in performance is in many ways analogous to the bebop musician's movement away from the musical score to collective improvisation. He considers text-based poetry, like fixed musical arrangements that rely on musical notation, to be symptomatic of stagnant white culture. In the essay "Swing From Verb to Noun," Baraka frames black aesthetics as constantly mutating in accordance with the evolution of African American identity and in defiance of white attempts at appropriation He writes, "The Negro's music changed as he changed, reflecting shifting attitudes or (and this is equally important) consistent attitudes within changed contexts ( Swing From Verb to Noun," 41). He positions black musical innovation, usually propelled by individual soloists, in direct opposition to white musical conformity, encouraged by the recording industry's desire to produce Somerville P 63


commodifiable hits. Therefore, Baraka's aversion to any individual poem's stasis on the page indicates a more general aversion to cultural stasis. Baraka's emphasis on the power of each individual performance stems largely from his belief that poetry in motion can actively combat oppression. Much of Baraka's critical work is heavily steeped in Black Nationalist ideology, and has encouraged a public conception of Baraka as avatar of the Black Aesthetic, a radical militant and essentialist" (Muyumba, 24). However, according to Walton Muyumba, his ever-shifting persona indicates a long-term improvisational practice. While a large part of Baraka's project during his career was to capture an authentic black persona, his ability to change approach and technique according to changing attitudes, social/political ideology, and a changing audience suggests the possibility of variations within that ideal. Muyumba writes, "the essential black self is improvisational, that the black self is, in fact, not foundational because jazz improvisation actually interrogates and subverts the search for essence" (26). !Baraka's often-quoted assertion that the black aesthetic requires one to "nd the self, then kill it" led him to create and then kill numerous versions of himself ( Black Music 176). Muyumba suggests that it is not a matter of killing the self, but rather othering the self in order to show the complexity of African American identity. Like a jazz musician, Baraka riffs on the various selves that society has historically proposed to the black community. While it is easiest to identify Baraka as the archetypal "angry black man," to do so would be to assign him to a scripted role rather than acknowledge the pluralism that characterizes his career. However, as Mackey notes, the ideas that inspired Baraka's conversion to Black Nationalist remain essential to his project throughout his Somerville P 64


many transitions. Mackey writes, "underlying the great amount of attention given to changes in the black stance and situation is the deeper conviction that a continuum exists within which the threat of dilution, co-optation, or amalgamation by the dominant white culture has been and continues to be repelled" ("The Changing Same," 26). Whatever his nuanced stance at any given point, Baraka positions himself in direct opposition to European culture, which he sees as inherently oppressive. While Mackey does not share Baraka's perception of the improvised jazz performance as endowed with social or political powers, it fulfills an equally powerful function in his critical and creative world. In his fiction, improvisation is key to expression and communication. A musical piece is more akin to a spontaneous (although highly informed) conversation than a scripted dialogue. Mackey's characters often fit ethnomusicologist Ingrid Monson's description of jazz musicians as "compositional participants who may say' unexpected things or elicit responses from other musicians" (Monson 81). The Mystic Horn Society's "musical intensification," as Monson would call it, "is open-ended rather than pre-determined and highly interpersonal in character" (81). During the band's jam sessions, one member usually proposes an idea that the other members then modify or expand. This leads to unexpected elements in the piece like interruptions, laughter, and occasional bickering (all without the use of actual words). In one section of Bedouin Hornbook, N. describes presenting his composition "Opposable Thumb at the Water's Edge," to his bandmates. One by one they all jump in, running with the ideas that N. proposed, making connections between Opposable Thumb and characters from other myths, and even criticizing one another for their approaches. He writes, Somerville P 65


Aunt Nancy quickly made it known that she resented the phallocentricity of what had been played up to that point, that we seemed to have either ignored or forgotten the fact that the hands of men have no monopoly on thumbs. Setting aside the bow and playing pizzicato to underscore this point, she went on to admit that on a more subtle, paradoxical level she'd heard in all our solos something she termed an opportune, albeit unconscious owning-up to the self-servicing hollowness of masculine assumptions.' What one might have otherwise dismissed as rhetoric was so intimately the issue of certain technical resolutions that we all (the three of us-that is, me, Lambert and Penguin) stood stunned at the digital precision of her approach to the strings. (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 47) The thumb becomes not only the launching pad for the piece but also the mechanism for discussing it. Through this kind of collaborative improvisation, myths become an active part of everyday experience for N. and his colleagues, or to borrow Baraka's terminology, they become verbs rather than nouns. Collaborative improvisation shows up in the structure as well as the content of Mackey's fiction. The correspondence between N. and the Angel of Dust can be seen as an act of improvisation. While readers are never given access to what the Angel of Dust writes or the music that he sends to N., his invisible letters are analogous to a melody or a musical idea proposed by one musician on which another improvises. N. expands or spars with concepts that the Angel of Dust has put forward, often incorporating specific Somerville P 66


musical works into his metaphysical treatment of the issue in the same way that a jazz performer might incorporate musical allusions or homages into his or her improvisation. For example, in a letter responding to the Angel of Dust's essay "Towards a Theory of the Falsetto in New World African Musics," N describes receiving the essay just as he put on a record by Al Green. Al Green's music, coupled with the Angel of Dust's essay, provides a point of reference for N's own composition. The structure allows for the layering of voices, here including the audible voice of Al Green and the implied voice of the Angel of Dust. Collective improvisation forms the foundation to Mackey's conceptual framework because it promotes intellectual discourse in music, and also because it leaves room for the unexpected, the unrehearsed, and the imperfect. For Mackey, the most compelling works of art are those with visible and/or audible imperfections, to which he often attaches metaphysical significance. The purposeful distortion of pristine compositions poses a challenge to traditional Western aesthetics's emphasis on perfection. By bringing the process of composition to the forefront, improvised music portrays the black performer as purposeful creator rather than as a thoughtless songbird. In fact, Mackey asserts that the creator often has a problematic relationship to expression in "The Changing Same," where he echos Baraka's comparison of seeing a live Coltrane performance to "watching a grown man learning to speak" (quoted in "The Changing Same ," 45). Mackey looks to instances of stuttering or stammering in music, literature and myth to expand his understanding of black culture. He echos the Kaluli people's belief that "the black musician's stutter is an introspective gesture that arises from and Somerville P 67


reflects critically upon an experience of isolation and exclusion" (Mackey, "Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol," 252). Using musicians like Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins as examples, he writes that "the genius of black music is the room it allows for a telling inarticulacy,' a feature consistent with its critique of a predatory coherence, a cannibalistic plan of living,' and the articulacy that upholds it" (253). Mackey links the aural sound of stuttering to physical staggering, particularly the staggering dance of Legba, the voodoo deity who has one leg in the world of humans and one leg in the world of the gods. Legba's imperfection lies in the different length of his legs. However, rather than being an im pedi ment, as Mackey playfully suggests, Legba's liminal position and subsequent flawed walk designate him as the deity of communication and language ( DE, 246). Legba is important to Mackey because he occupies a space between two worlds, a space likewise occupied by the black artist. Black writers finds themselves working with text, traditionally an oppressive tool of Western domination, while at the same time valorizing oral expression. Black musicians likewise finds themselves using Western scales and instruments in order to create the atonal harmonies and "impure" sounds that contradict traditional Western aesthetics. The stuttering and stammering found in improvised jazz, while they might conventionally suggest incompetency, are in fact purposeful methods of jousting with the forms dictated by Western culture a jousting that produces more compelling art. Along with stuttering, raspiness is another improvisational technique championed by Mackey but denigrated by traditional Western musicologists. N. from Bedouin Hornbook continually lauds voices that have "throaty directness" and "cryptic Somerville P 68


hoarseness" (18; 20). Raspiness is important on a basic level because it contradicts European culture's emphasis on refinement. Andalusian culture calls raspy or gravelly sounds duende 8 This vocal technique, found in flamenco music, is a vestige of Moorish culture that was appropriated by Gypsies and then introduced into Spanish culture While not a distilled sound, it nevertheless requires skill to execute. In Spanish tradition, when a singer has duende he or she allows the voices of spirits to come through. In this way, the duende singer engages in a kind of improvised conversation with spirits. Like jazz improvisation, this provides a useful model for Mackey's poetry. He states, "this wooing of another voice, an alternate voice, that is so important to duende has as one of its aspects or analogues in poetry, that state of entering the language in such a way that one is into an area of implication, resonance, and connotation that is manifold, manymeaninged, polysemous" ("Cante Moro," 186). Raspiness also points to exile both physical and spiritual. As a technique introduced by one exiled group (the Moors) and then continued by a group that has also historically suffered from social exclusion (gypsies), it has been important to many "othered" poets, such as Frederico Garcia Lorca, Langston Hughes, and Baraka. However, Mackey does not associate duende with any specific social condition the way that Baraka does. In the poem "History as Process," Baraka links duende to the blues, seeing it as another example of black music's tendency to vocalize social ills and solidify identity. He calls black music "what // the freaky gipsies rolled through Europe on. // (The soul.)" (quoted in Mackey, "The Changing Same," 33). His speaker, playing an Somerville P 69 8 see track # 9: from Duende


instrument essential to both flamenco music and the blues (the guitar), "strum[s] [his] head / for a living" finding spiritual as well as financial sustenance (Mackey 33). Baraka writes, "Bankrupt utopia sez tell me / no utopias. I will not listen. (Except the raw wind makes the hero's eyes close, and the tears that come out are real.)" (33). While Baraka notes the despair found in the "troubled voice" of duende he attributes to it effective social uplift power. Baraka describes it as "The thing, There as Speed, is God, a mingling / possibility. The force, As simple future" (33). Mackey, on the other hand, sees duende as anything but "simple." Rather than a "force," Mackey describes it as an "eloquence of another order, a broken, problematic, self-problematizing eloquence" ( "Cante Moro," 182). Like the participants in the performances described in Mackey's fiction, the two voices that of the singer and that of the spirit complicate one another. The spirit's song is often "other than that proposed by one's intentions, tangential to one's intentions, angular, oblique the obliquity of unbound reference" (187). To Mackey, the power of duende lies not in its ability to make a crystallized statement, but rather in its ability to capture the grating or splintering effect of existence. Duende and other forms of improvisation are conceptually useful because they illuminate process and the artist's ever evolving relationship to his or her tools. This appreciation impacts the way that Mackey constructs his poems. Rather than following a compact form, Mackey's poems continually unravel themselves, lending them an incomplete, centrifugal quality. Images mutate, words take on new meanings and nonmeanings, and poems pick up on ideas only vaguely introduced in other poems, with no conclusion in sight. Like Baraka, Mackey refuses to treat the poem as an artifact. Somerville P 70


Mackey's work, unlike Baraka's, gives the reader no sense of agenda nor a specific time frame or local. No poem stays in one "place," in terms of both physical location and the ideas that are treated. The poem "Glen on Monk's Mountain," for example, is highly improvisational, treating unexpectedness on a thematic level and stylistic level. He begins, "Next it was Austria we / were in. Unexpected rain / soaked our shoes, / unexpected snow froze // our// feet" (Mackey, Splay Anthem, 44). The unidentified "we" is also surprised to find themselves on "Monk's / Mountain not the Monk's we took it for" (44). They are then carried along on a journey which a "bitter book" had sent them on. Mackey appears to keep with Charles Olson's belief that "ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION" (Olson, 388). The movement of "Glen on Monk's Mountain" and the subject's journey is driven almost entirely by the perception of sounds, much like an improvised jazz piece. Mackey writes, "A bit of straw caught in my eye / made it water, water / filled my head with salt...Straw, ridden by / water, filled my head, my / throat, my chest, salt, filled / my head with sound" ( Splay Anthem, 45). The aural resonances between "straw," "caught," and "water," and "salt," create links between seemingly disparate images. Sound then physically transports the listeners across a body of salt water alluded to but not quite described, taking them from Austria to Ethiopia. He writes, "A sound of / bells / not of bells but of pounded / iron, the Falasha spoken to / by Ogun" (45). The reference to a sect of Ethiopian Jews and the sudden arrival of the Yoruban god of iron in a European setting, while thematically bizarre, makes sense Somerville P 71


considering the aural progression of the poem. It is not only the resemblance of the sound of bells and the sound of pounding iron but also the resonances between the words "sound" and "pounding" that bring these two concepts together. Sounds continue to inspire images, leading to a return to the image of a monk-like figure (in this case, Buddha). Like a jazz musician who keeps the original melodic framework of a piece in mind and who periodically returns to it while improvising, Mackey keeps in mind the images and ideas that are central to the poem, including (but certainly not limited to) the image of a monk. Despite Mackey's valorization of improvisation in his critical and written works, the practice remains surprisingly absent from his readings. He remains consistently faithful to the text, rarely changing his intonation or dynamics. As a writer coming out of the poststructuralist tradition, Mackey's awareness of the slippage of signifiers makes his work filled with double-meanings, non-meanings, and implied connections. Mackey does not necessarily have to improvise each performance in order for the audience to have a different experience each time hearing the poem. The audience might hear unintended connections and think of unexpected images. In "Sight-Specific, Sound-Specific," Mackey describes attending a 1979 Robert Duncan reading, in which he heard "a star in the stair under the closed lids" rather than the intended "a star in the stare ("SightSpecific," 229). Finding his misinterpretation to have generated an equally interesting image in his mind, Mackey writes that "the life of the word resides in such variable apprehension," and that "writing that's alive to this power needn't be performed or declaimed" (229). His un-improvised delivery still allows the reader/listener to be an Somerville P 72


active participant in the performance rather than a passive observer. While Mackey obviously considers the ability to improvise to be a testament to a musician's craftsmanship as well as a productive means of musical communication, his refusal to improvise during readings of his own poetry takes out any element of spectacle that could link his work to entertainment. He writes, "There's enough going on already. There's no need to ham it up" (229). While Mackey and Baraka have equally strong ideas about the importance of improvisation in jazz music and both rely on improvisation as a conceptual model, their interpretations of the main impulse behind improvisation differ. For Baraka, the importance of improvisation lies above all in its retainment of the "nonmaterial aspects of Africa's culture" ( Blues People, 16). The moment the music becomes stagnant, it lays vulnerable to the middle-and upper class commodification machine. It is the job of the jazz musician not only to evade this machine, but to actively assassinate it, using improvisation as a weapon. Baraka casts himself in a similarly revolutionary light during his live performances. Mackey, on the other hand, remains less preoccupied with the reactionary element of improvisation than with its reflective element. To him, improvisation is not so much a useful model for modern social change, as it is a musical tradition that is heavily steeped in spiritual practice often a practice of complicating rather than solving. Somerville P 73


Repetition Like improvisation, repetition is essential to the jazz performance, as well as to Baraka and Mackey's poetic practices. Improvisational jazz relies on repetition, as performers are only able to improvise on what has already been proposed by other players, and need the repetition of phrases and rhythms to keep them focused. Repetition also allows musicians from different generations to engage in dialogue with one another. This is one of the ways in which jazz has been at odds with conventional Western aesthetic philosophy. Theodore Adorno's critique of jazz lies in the "tricks" that were repeated across the genre, and with its failure to produce autonomous musical works. As James Snead notes in "Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture," repetition has historically played a unique role in black culture. He asserts that "one may readily classify cultural forms according to whether they tend to admit or cover up the repeating constituents within them" (Snead, 62). The repetition found across the jazz genre does not correspond with Europe's concept of progress as departure. It does, however, indicate a concept of progress as return and subsequent elucidation. While structures and modes that are either internally repetitive or repeat elements of other works might be deprecated by European thinkers in the vein of Adorno, they can be considered highly productive when looked at from the perspective of a racially or culturally othered group. Snead writes that culture relies on "a certain continuance in the nurture of those concepts and experiences that have helped or are helping to lend selfconsciousness and awareness to a given group" (Snead, 63). The social function of Somerville P 74


repetition in black culture is enormous. In many West African cultures, the repetition of songs and stories was essential to the griot tradition, the means by which African peoples created a history and passed down a cultural legacy. In describing the cultural importance of literature in the black tradition, Aldon Nielson writes Chant, and this is true equally of such terms as "song" and "tradition" in order to be heard as chant, must present itself to us as the at least vaguely familiar, the already heard, for it must have presupposed the possibility of reiteration, response, recall, rerapping. It is not chant if not repeated, nor is it orature unless it is transmitted, remarked, redeployed. Each member of the inheriting chain of tradition repeats the chant in a different voice, replays it in a different register, alters its rhythmic patterns. ( Black Chant, 30) In America, repetitive techniques like the musical cut and the "call and response" technique utilized in work songs and spirituals was not only essential to preserving culture but also provided a means of surreptitious communication and rebellion, something extremely important to Baraka. Because of this, Baraka models a large portion of his work on these repetitive musical structures and modes. One of these techniques is the "cut," or a spontaneous return to the beginning of a musical phrase, found frequently in the songs of artists like James Brown 9 Snead notes that in the Black church, the words "Praise God" serve more as a musical cut than as a Somerville P 75 9 see track # 10: Brown, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."


meaningful utterance (Snead, 72). By making his sermons rhythmically interesting, the black preacher harnesses the transcendental powers of music, allowing him to connect with listeners at a deeper level. Musicians like James Brown, by incorporating the repetitive techniques indelibly tied to black culture, makes music a powerful vehicle for spiritual expression and social commentary. Like sermons, Baraka's poems often develop according to sound rather than rhetoric. What Rolland Murray calls Baraka's "fascination with the incantatory" comes out during his highly repetitive performances. While on the page Baraka's repetition of words might strike the reader as redundant, in performance it creates a powerful momentum. Both Baraka's performance of the poem "It's Nation Time" at the 1970 Congress of African Peoples in Atlanta 10 and the 1972 record titled "It's Nation Time" serve as useful models of his use of repetition and its sermonizing effect. In analyzing the recording, Meta DuEwa Jones notes an "energetic pulse" that "marks his rapid delivery" (Jones, "Politics," 248). This allows the recorded album to retain a sense of immediacy despite its condition as a reproduction. While Baraka's reiteration of the phrase "it's nation time" conveys a sense of social or political urgency, the primary function of repetition is not rhetorical but musical. More interesting than the fact that Baraka repeats this phrase are the variations within his repetition. In her analysis of the live performance Jones states that Baraka's varied stylization of the repeated phrase "suggests that jazz inflection can be present in a poem whose content does not ostensibly indicate any relationship to that tradition" ("Politics," 250). He sporadically elongates the Somerville P 76 10 see track # 11: Baraka, "It's Nation Time."


i in "time" with a "pronounced vibrato, mimicking the sound of a saxophone" (250). Repetition is equally important on the recorded album because Baraka is accompanied by musicians. Jones writes that "Baraka's reiteration enables the percussionist that accompanies him to punctuate and puncture his reading rhythm" (249). While his poems might have a strong political overtones, Baraka structures them based primarily on musical principles. While the repetition of politically-charged slogans like "it's nation time" indicates a certain level of certitude on the part of the speaker, Baraka also uses repetition to explode meaning. In "It's Nation Time," Baraka's repetition of the word "black" in the lines "black energy space," "black genius rise in spirit muscle," and "the black man is the future...of the black genius spirit reality" serves to "potentially destabilize more than codify a fixed notion of blackness'" (Jones, "Politics," 248). Baraka is heavily invested in using language to make a socially effective statement, often using repetition to strip oppressive language of its social meaning, or to illuminate the oppressed subjects troubled relationship to certain words. Mackey traces the roots of this kind of repetition back to minstrelsy. He writes, "minstrelsy, under cover of blackface, was able to vent apprehensions regarding the tenuousness of language, even as it ridiculed its target of choice for a supposed lack of linguistic competence" (Mackey, "Other: From Noun to Verb," 280). As Mackey notes, the use of repetition to destabilize words continued into high modernist poetics, particularly in the poetry of Gertrude Stein. While Baraka's project remains different from Stein's, his continual repetition of racially and politically Somerville P 77


charged vocabulary often forces the reader to question his or her own grasp on the concepts that those words are supposed to point to. The unfixed meaning of "black" noted by Jones points to a kind of indeterminacy even more prevalent in Nathaniel Mackey's work. In his critical work, Mackey does not seem to find the kind of certitude that accompanies reiterated statements particularly compelling. His championing of expressive modes that point to black reflectiveness or interiority cause him to eschew forward or outward-moving structures in his creative work, lending it a cyclical, serial quality. The structure of his fiction is highly repetitive, in that it consists of letters rather than a narrative with a progressive plot. N. and the Angel of Dust never solve any quandaries, but return to them in later letters and discuss them further. As work largely uninterested in current affairs, the political issues that do appear in From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate are often ones that have shown up repeatedly throughout history. Mackey's description of the Mystic Horn Society's performance of Charles Mingus's piece "Free Cell Block F, 'tis Nazi USA" in Djbot Baghostus's Run demonstrates the function of repetition well 11 N.'s repetition of the note C does not immediately resonate with listeners on a semantic level. However, as soon as N. begins to play another note, (i.e. "not C"), he clarifies the links between "note C," "not C," "not see," and "Nazi." (Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 353). The audience can then understand the political implications of N.'s gesture. By repeating the note C, N. suggests that "not seeing" (i.e. allowing travesties to occur) is a problem that occurred before Somerville P 78 11 see track # 12: Mingus, "Free Cell Block F Tis Nazi USA."


WWII and continues to occur. Like N., Mackey does not seek to solve any current social problem but rather seeks to explore recurrent themes underlying an array of historical events. The timeless quality of Mackey's political and social commentary thus places little emphasis on immediacy in Mackey's own performances. In Mackey's poetry one finds an unlimited recurrence of images, ideas, mythic figures, and musical allusions. In his introduction to Splay Anthem Mackey writes, "A desperate accent or inflection runs through seriality's recourse to repetition, an apprehension of limits we find ourselves up against again and again, limits we'd get beyond if we could" ( Splay Anthem, xiv). Issues become so intertwined that one recurring image points to several of the larger themes at work in every poem. For example, the titles of Splay Anthem 's three sections "Braid," "Fray," and "Nub" describe three stages in the act of unraveling a braid, resulting in a nub. They also point to a few key themes, including black spirituality and Andalusian musical practice. The image of braided hair crops up repeatedly in the form of locks or dread locks, which then becomes its own theme. Braid also reappears as "brayed," and "bray." Braying evokes horses, used as metaphors for humans during voodoo possession rituals in which participants are said to be "mounted" by loa. "Bray" can refer to any harsh or coarse sound, perhaps also pointing to the throaty vocal stylings of flamenco singers. The word "Fray" aurally recalls "Braid," and semantically recalls the unraveling impulse behind Mackey's work. "Nub," recalls both the product of a frayed braid as well as words like knob or stub or stump, which in turn point to Legba's short leg. Ideas reappear in unexpected places, often proliferating new themes that reemerge throughout his creative work. Somerville P 79


The frequency of these issues' appearance highlights their centrality to Mackey's project. In fact, its hard to point to an image, thought, idea, or question that is not central to Mackey's work. Mackey remains primarily concerned with re-examining and finding new threads linking the various topics that have already been treated rather than with treating an expanding scope of topics. In this way, it becomes ritualistic a lifelong reexamination of the same ideas. For the reader, this lends both his poetry and his fiction a hallucinatory or dŽjˆ vu effect. "Glen on Monk's Mountain" again provides a useful example. Mackey introduces the image of cloth and connects it to the sky in the lines, "the rags on our backs a bolt / or black, star-studded / cloth" (Mackey, Splay Anthem 44). At the end of the poem, the image of cloth returns, although indirectly. After discussing the transcendent sound of bells, he writes, "something yet / to arrive / we called rung. Rickety wood, split / reed, sprung ladder" (45). The word rung, now referring to both bells and to the steps of a ladder, evokes the image of climbing or otherwise rising upward. He writes, Rung was a bough made of air, an unlikely plank suddenly under our feet we floated up from rung was a loquat limb, runaway ladder, bent miraculous branch, thetic step...Flesh beginning Somerville P 80


to go like wax, we sat like Buddha, breath an abiding chime, chimeless, bells had we been rung (45) The idea of ascension associated with the rungs of ladders recalls the sky, which has been previously linked to cloth. The air into which the "we" ascends evokes breath. Breath becomes the "abiding chime" of bells, which are rung. The syntax of the last two lines suggests that the "we" is rung like a pair of bells rather than actively ringing the bells. Within this syntactical structure, "we" could also be wrung like cloth. The images of cloth, sky, and sound continue to reappear and to inform one another throughout the two serial poems that make up Splay Anthem However, the links between recurrent ideas are subtle. Like Miles Davis, who contemplates without introducing, Mackey gives the reader access to his serial ruminations, but leaves it up to the reader to locate recurrence. Baraka and Mackey employ repetition differently in both their written work and in their performances. Repetition in Baraka's work, while it may have some rhetorical significance when used to emphasize certain phrases, has almost no textual significance it exists primarily for the purpose of propelling his performances and augmenting their musicality. On the contrary, performance doesn't factor into Mackey's use of repetition at all. Whatever aural repetition exists in the work is there for the reader to find, without Somerville P 81


Mackey underscoring it in person. In fact, tracing visual/textual resonances as well as aural resonances enriches the audience's experience. Unlike Baraka, Mackey refuses to use the performance to make these resonances more obvious. Conclusion While the jazz performance remains an essential conceptual model for their writing practices, their conception of performed language differs. Rolland Murray writes, Although nationalist models of performative language, like their postmodern counterparts, suggest that identities are fashioned through language, they posit a more racially essentialist model of how words relate to being" (Murray, 306). An important part of Baraka's project is asserting his identity as black macho revolutionary, an identity that he associates with the jazz performers that he idolizes. Creating this militant identity relies to a large degree on performance, as his written work fails to transfer a sense of momentum or urgency to the reader. While the radical political content of Baraka's poems and the aggressive nature of his performances might make him unpopular among certain audiences, his performance technique does allow the audience to project an identity onto him that can be easily cited by mass culturethat of the angry black man. Mackey's performances, on the other hand, situate him within a traditionally unacknowledged category of black intellectuals. Throughout his critical work, Mackey reiterates Baraka's statement that watching jazz performed "will make you think a lot of weird and wonderful things. You might even Somerville P 82


become one of them" (Mackey, "The Changing Same," 25). Mackey's writing has an equally powerful and "weirding" effect on its audience, often challenging basic notions of identity. Because the poststructuralist tradition within which Mackey works highlights text and its ability to deconstruct itself, movement in Mackey's poems cannot rely on the spoken word alone. As an heir to poststructuralist thought, Mackey works within a theoretical tradition that encourages readers to question the ability of maintaining personal identity, making persona (and consequently the performance of persona) less important to his project. Somerville P 83


Chapter 3 Interpretations of gender and performances of masculinity "The curse you carry is right inside of you, because you never know a woman, no matter what you do..." 12 Albert Ayler, "Thank God for Women," Holy Ghost: Rare & Reissued Recordings Introduction An important aspect of the discrepant personas that Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey employ is masculinity. In superficial terms, Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey share the identity of a (presumably) heterosexual male intellectual. However, much like their different interpretations of jazz performance, their understanding of this identity varies radically. The disparate masculinities that Baraka and Mackey perform can be partly attributed to their relationships with their earlier inuences. Both writers are heavily indebted to the Black Mountain poets Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, who, along with establishing important poetic principles contributed a new discourse about masculinity in the poetic world Although they were both white, college-educated males, neither Olson nor Creeley fit the mold of masculinity that their era demanded. Andrew Mossin writes that the "projective" male self that evolved throughout their discourse "had Somerville P 84 12 see track # 13: Ayler, "Thank God for Women."


much to do with Olson's (and Creeley's) need to find a context for their masculinity in a cultural setting that was, if not hostile to their kind of man (anti-corporate, ambiguous in their claims to real manhood'), could find little use for them" (Mossin, 17). While remaining outside of the mainstream, Olson and Creeley created divergent roles for the male poetthe former taking a hyper-masculine, ultra-confident approach and the latter maintaining an ambiguous, hesitant stance. Olson and Creeley's differing conceptions of masculinity drastically affected their writing styles and performance aesthetics. Out of Baraka's white avant-garde influences, Olson had a lasting impact on him because of his conception of voice and his larger-thanlife personal presentation, which Olson was able to transcribe onto the page using what Mossin calls "avuncular and muscular" prosody and "tough guy" vernacular (Mossin, 25). Creeley's gender anxiety often channeled into neurotic prosodic practice 13 and his subdued performance style, coupled with the Black Mountain schools' failure to take the African American perspective into account, rendered his work politically impotent in Baraka's eyes. For Mackey, on the other hand, Creeley remains a strong influence, not only because of his prosodic innovation but also because of his evasion of bravado and the ways in which he complicates gender. In addition to Black Mountain-era discourse, Black Nationalist and poststructuralist discourses return as potential explanations for the difference between Baraka and Mackey's approach to gender. For Baraka and his contemporaries in the Black Arts Movement, the already sexist tendencies in 1960's discourse were aggravated Somerville P 85 13 See Creeley, "Ballad of the Despairing Husband," where Creeley uses a rigid prosodic form to counter the marital volatility described by the speaker. The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-1975, 173-174.


by the turbulent racial politics of the era, urging many to define and assert an authoritative masculinity that could counter the emasculating effects of racial oppression. For Mackey and his contemporaries writing in the late 1980's and early 1990's, masculinity became a more nebulous concept. Like many aspects of identity, gender came under heavy scrutiny by intellectuals working in the poststructuralist tradition. In addition to linguistic binaries, poststructuralism also encourages the deconstruction of binary social codes, including binary gender. Third wave feminists' incorporation of performativity theory, namely Judith Butler's theory of performative gender, brought the idea of inherent gender and even biological sex under scrutiny. Rolland Murray writes that in contrast to Black Nationalist ideology, these theories imply that human identity is as mutable as discourse itself" (Murray 306). !As a Black Nationalist, part of Baraka's political project was to reinvest black men with social agency and authority. This drastically affected his performance style, as well as the portrayal of men and women in his creative work. Mackey, on the other hand, wrote during a fruitful era in gender studies that challenged both institutional sexism and proscriptive notions of gender. As a result, the masculinity that his characters and poetic speakers perform is complicated and often challenged by the equally powerful female presence in his creative work. As a performer, Mackey remains understated, seemingly uninterested in asserting any public persona, let alone a masculinist one. Baraka's Conflicted Black Machismo Somerville P 86


As noted earlier, Baraka inherited from Projectivism a clear sense of poetry's relationship to personal identity. In the case of Olson, it was not only the breath of the poet, but also his "stance toward reality outside a poem that shaped "the reality of a poem itself" (Olson, "Projective Verse," The New American Poetry Anthology, 394) Andrew Mossin states that "As with Whitman, whose emphasis on the male body as prima facie condition of writing Olson shared, one cannot easily stand outside the masculine context of Olson's poetry" (Mossin, "In Thicket," 19). Olson employs models of rugged masculinity, for example Gloucester fisherman in The Maximus Poems. His poetic sensibility bases masculine and feminine interaction on the model of conquest. He attaches women to the life-giving Earth which must be cultivated by men, and created the idea that poetry was conceived when a male "voice" penetrated a feminine "ear" (Mossin, 26). This left little room for real female agency. Charles Bernstein writes, "for Olson maleness' is patriarchally assumed to be an all-inclusive' term for significant human experience by dint of an unacknowledged reduction of the non-male to insignificance" (quoted in DuPlessis, 76). Olson's concept of gender dictated his creative process as well as the content of his work. Mossin contends that one finds in Olson's approach a "model of masculine bravado and stance,'" (Mossin, 19). Invoking Creeley's dictum that "Form is never more than extension of content" Mossin concludes that "Olson's form extends directly from the masculinist content that is its center, its base" (19). Baraka's writing from his formative years conveys the same sentiments, suggesting that his poetry derives from a singularly male heterosexual perspective. In an essay from this period he states, "I write poetry to Somerville P 87


investigate myself, and my meaning and meanings... to invest the world with a clearer understanding of it self, but only by virtue of my having brought some clearer understanding to my self into it" (quoted in Harris, The Jazz Aesthetic, 36). We see many speakers that share Baraka's biographical information, for example in "Numbers, Letters," where the speaker describes himself as "Everett LeRoi Jones, 30 years old // A black nigger in the universe" ( Transbluesency, 137). Therefore it seems feasible to conclude that the black male voices found in his creative work are a product of Baraka's own identity, or at least share his perspective. Baraka's dramatic split from the white avant-garde milieu brought about many stylistic, thematic, and conceptual changes in his work. Throughout the many shifts in his career he continued to use Olson's voice-based poetic techniques to assert his own identity an identity marked by Olson-esque bravado. As a political and spiritual leader in the Black Power movement, Baraka was under enormous pressure not only to assert his masculinity but also to define an authentic black masculinity that would encourage the amelioration of the black family's social and economic condition. In Becoming Black, Michelle Wright argues that while black intellectuals from NŽgritude to the Black arts movement created counter-discourses to the dominate white male discourse that "provided useful models for resistance and response," the "(re)construction of a gendered agency in nationalist discourse disabled the possibility of a Black female subject at the same time that it enabled the Black male subject who, like his white male counterpart, comes into being through the denial of another's subjectivity in this case, Black women" (Wright, 132). The Black Arts Movement was indelibly impacted by Black Somerville P 88


Power ideology, which was deeply invested in reinstating black men's control over women. As Wright notes, contributing to this effort was the 1965 Moynihan report, a sociological study that reinforced the already existing false notion that black women were responsible for emasculating black men and were thus holding back the race. She describes the report as finding "a perverse resonance among Black Power activists such as Eldridge Cleaver and Amiri Baraka in their construction of Black woman" (132). As he became increasingly involved in the Black Power movement, Baraka infused his work with rhetoric invested in proscribing appropriate behavior for black men and women. Initially, his response took on the trappings of the "narcissistic macho" impulse within the movement, an impulse that encouraged the situation of black masculinity in terms of sexual potency and the degradation of black and white women (Matlin, 91). As Daniel Matlin observes, this was largely a reaction to the sexualized racism that plagued Baraka first during his youth as a member of a predominately white middle-class community where his interaction with white girls was heavily policed, and then as a member of white bohemia, where his plans to move in with a white couple were thwarted by the other woman's parents, based on the assumption that he would rape her (Matlin, 94). The macho sentiments in Baraka's work in the 1960's set him up for perpetual indictment for sexism and homophobia. The emergence of Baraka's troublesome masculinist rhetoric can be found in the poem "Black Dada Nihilismus," where the speaker says "Come up, black dada / nihilismus. Rape the white girls. Rape / their fathers. Cut the mothers' throats" ( Baraka Reader 72). While its doubtful that these lines Somerville P 89


are to be taken literally as instructions to black males in the community, they are effective in demonstrating an extreme emotional reaction to the historical depiction of black men as rapists. They are also effective in proposing artistic violence (signaled by the evocation of Dada) on the aesthetics that Baraka considered indelibly linked to white oppression, and the aesthetics of his own assimilationist past. Daniel Won-gu Kim writes, "the most vividly imagined violence in the incitement' passage is not so much directed against generalized white society... but at the whiteness within Baraka's own self" (Kim, 347). We see similarly violent sexism in "Black Art," where the speaker calls for "black poems to / smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches / whose brains are red jelly stuck / between lizabeth taylor's toes. Stinking / Whores!" as well as a "bad poem cracking / steel knuckles in a jewlady's mouth" (Baraka, Baraka Reader, 219). While he does not explicitly condone acts of physical violence, Baraka's Black Nationalist-era poems direct bitter disdain towards white women and whitened middle-class black women, or rather the culture that they represent. These poems figure the black man as the vehicle of revolt, whether it be political/ social or artistic. Poems like "A Poem for Black Hearts," read like a call-to-arms, portraying the black man as a righteous assassin of the oppressive social structure that was responsible for the death of Malcolm X. Baraka writes black man, quit stuttering and shuffling, look up, black man, quit whining and stooping, for all of him For Great Malcolm a prince of the earth, let nothing in us rest Somerville P 90


until we avenge ourselves for his death, stupid animals that killed him, let us never breathe a pure breath if we fail, and white men call us faggots till the end of the earth. ( Baraka Reader, 218) Here, Baraka clearly ties effective social action to heterosexual males, ignoring black women entirely. In other poems, his phallocentric tendencies lead him to associate poetic as well as political efficacy with masculine sexual potency and physical prowess. In "Black Art," he writes "Fuck poems / and they are useful, wd they shoot / come at you, love what you are, / breathe like wrestlers, or shudder / strangely after pissing" ( Baraka Reader 219). Black women are again invisible. In her discussion of traditional gender binaries, Mackey's contemporary Judith Butler states that if the "reality" of gender "is fabricated as an interior essence, that very interiority is an effect and function of a decidedly public and social discourse" (Butler, 2497). She states that this discourse features "the public regulation of fantasy and through the surface politics of the body, the gender border control that differentiates inner from outer, and so institutes the integrity' of the subject" (Butler, 2497). Part of Baraka's political discourse includes dening the bodily dimensions of black femininity. Baraka begins the poem "W.W." with the declaration "Back home the black women are all beautiful, / and the white ones fall back, cutoff from 1000 / years stacked booty" ( Baraka Reader, 221). He immediately frames black femininity in terms of bodily voluptuousness rather than political, social, or artistic prominence. The voluptuous black female body Somerville P 91


becomes a symbol of black cultural richness, which men are responsible for protecting through their political and social efforts. The white female body likewise becomes a symbol, albeit one of cultural bankruptcy. One finds a challenge to white or whitened femininity in the poem "The Success," where Baraka describes "the whiteness / of his wife's withered stomach" ( Transbluesency, 126). He likewise equates the thin female body with a lack of femininity in "The Burning General." He writes "But can we replace the common exchange of experience with stroking / some skinny girl's penis?" ( Transbluesency, 129). This poem, filled with disdain for the emasculated members of the intellectual elite, demonstrates a simultaneous investment in valorizing the integrity of the male body, to borrow Butler's terminology. She writes What constitutes through division the inner' and outer' worlds of the subject is a border and boundary tenuously maintained for the purposes of social regulation and control. The boundary between the inner and outer is confounded by those excremental passages in which the inner effectively becomes the outer, and this excreting function becomes...a model by which other forms of identitydifferentiation are accomplished. In effect, this is the mode by which Others become shit." (2495) For Baraka, the "other" constitutes anyone that does not identify as a black heterosexual male. He begins "The Burning General" by criticizing the "money jungle of controlled / Somerville P 92


pederasty" in which "freakish pseudo dada mama" poets like "Allen" (Allen Ginsberg) participate ( Transbluesency, 129). He extends his critique of the white bohemian lifestyle (a lifestyle which he has established allows foreign objects to enter the male body) to the assimilationist intellectual black community. Maintaining control of what enters and exits the body becomes central to Baraka's portrayal of black masculinity in "The Burning General." In addition to monitoring what the body takes in, he also demands that the black man monitor what leaves. After wondering, "Can we ask a man to savor the food of oppression?" he asks the whitened black intellectual "Why are you so sophisticated? You used to piss and shit in your pants" ( Transbluesency, 129). He later states, "You want your experience thought of as valuable. Which is, listen baby, only another kind / of journalistic enterprise. Not worthy of that bumpy madness / crawled up your thighs when the urine dried those sweet lost winters, and tears were the whole fucking world" (129). In this poem, being a "valuable" male member of society means maintaining a hermetic bodily surface and containing the physical manifestations of emotion, as does actively using the body to combat oppression in society so that the black man "can walk up Mulberry street without getting beat up in Italian" (129). Linguistic, bodily, and social control all go hand in hand. This level of control is not demanded nor expected of females. In "Manhood and its Poetic Projects: The construction of masculinity in the counter-cultural poetry of the U.S. 1950s" Rachel Blau Duplessis states that in the "view of the world in the 1950s, the female' had little or no counter-cultural or critical possibility" (DuPlessis, 97). She states that counter-cultural poets' "sense of manhood was mobile and even grand; their Somerville P 93


sense of the potential for and in women was static and suspicious" (DuPlessis, 97). Wright notes this impulse behind the formation of a Black Nationalist project. She writes, "nationalism necessarily relies on a mythic concept of...women as passive helpmates to the male subject" (Wright, 133). Baraka demonstrates a comparable attitude towards female participation in his idealized Black Nation. Any efficacy that women display in Baraka's Black Nationalist poetry lies in their appropriation of an authentically black physical appearance, or in the spiritual transcendence that they facilitate for a male speaker through sex. In the poem "W.W.", Baraka suggests that even the women with "all that grease / in their heads" are beautiful, and could potentially participate in revolution, but only by taking their wigs off and embracing their authentically black appearance. He writes "I could talk to them. Bring them around. To something. / Some kind of quick course, on the sidewalk, like Hey baby / why don't you take that thing off yo' haid" ( Baraka Reader 221). Baraka portrays woman in a more sentimental but no less belittling light in "The World Is Full of Remarkable Things." Here, he describes his eighteen year old lover, and at one point the carrier of his unborn child Olabumi Osafemi, as "Womanchild." He takes the traditional approach of attaching woman to the Earth when he describes the sensations of "grains & grass & long / silences, the dark / ness my natural / element" that he feels when she touches him ( Baraka Reader, 223) As a result, he "love[s] & / understand[s] / things" in "warm black skin" (223). Not only does her body provide the setting for his epiphany, but she also benefits from it. She "cries these / moans, pushed / from her by my / weight, her legs / spreading wrapping / secure the spirit / in her" (223). Somerville P 94


This description of intercourse frames the woman as receptacle for the man's "spirit", as well as a passive catalyst for the male speaker's enlightenment. While the sentiments expressed in his earlier poems attached Baraka's public image to the violent sexism and social negligence found in certain sectors of the Black Power movement, his later career showed a transformation in his concept of normative heterosexual relationships, making marriage the ideal for African Americans. Matlin observes, An accurate feminist critique of Baraka's formulation of black power would locate his chauvinism within a conservative tradition of black social thought molded by the normative values of American society at large rather than in an indigenous, pathological black nihilism. A further basis for the extreme rigidity of Baraka's views about the roles of men and women in a revolutionary movement, however, was his intellectual reliance on race as an organic entity....Baraka's desire to reinstate the "natural" roles of the sexes was inextricable from his understanding of the black race as a construct of nature rather than of society. (93-94) Baraka's increasing interaction with the Nation of Islam and Ron Karenga's US movement, while it coincided with more radical separatist politics, also encouraged more traditional patriarchal values. During this era he began to distinguish between modern African American manhood and what he considered inherent African manhood, underlining a need to return to the latter. Matlin observes that Baraka's creative work in Somerville P 95

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the late 1960's took on chivalrous tones, encouraging black men to protect and provide for women, dismantling the African American matriarchy that had emasculated them in favor of a more authentically African patriarchy. One finds this rhetoric in the play Madheart where a symbolic Black Man asks Black Woman to "submit, for love" in order to re-establish what Baraka considered normative power dynamics (quoted in Matlin, 102). While this may have been an effort to return the black family to its naturally African state, it actually took on many of the same characteristics as 1950s American mainstream patriarchy. Under this code, women were relegated to a supportive, nurturing role. Men were indicted for their previous negligence, and asked to take on a more authoritative role. In his poem "Beautiful Black Women," Baraka asks for the patience and support of black women. He writes, ... We fail them and their lips stick out perpetually, at our weakness... ... Ladies, women. We need you. We are still trapped and weak, but we build and grow heavy with our knowledge. Women come to us. Help us get back what was always ours. Help us, women. Where are you, women, where, and who, and where, and who, and will you help us, will you open your bodysouls, will you lift me up mother, will you let me help you, daughter, wife/lover, will you. (Baraka, Black Magic 148) Somerville P 96

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While by this point in his career Baraka had established roles (albeit subordinate ones) for women in the revolution, his poetic treatment of them still locates the success of the black community in its men. By asking "where are you, women" he suggests that black women are currently not identifiable as such, but will be when they assume their position within a patriarchal structure as either mother, daughter, or wife/lover. While his later politics became increasingly Afro-centric, the family model that he proposes does not differ from that of the mainstream American patriarchy. Looking at the spectrum of Baraka's creative work, as well as taking into consideration his involvement in various socially responsible organizations, its clear that he can not be pegged purely as a black macho or violent nihilist. While both Baraka's early black macho rhetoric and his later espousal of patriarchal values indicate essentialist attitudes that are clearly unsatisfactory from a modern feminist perspective, Baraka's shifting views illuminate the problematizing effect of racial politics and severe social unrest on the already problematic gender dynamics of the era. While the 1950's and 1960's were dominated by the kind of masculinist rhetoric found in the discourse of poets like Baraka and Olson, the intellectual community did not espouse a uniform attitude towards gender. While Baraka works within a categorical framework the majority of his work emphasizes an authentically African American male perspective and addresses identifiable groups of people the more individualist writing of Baraka and Olson's contemporary Robert Creeley, as well as that of their successor Nathaniel Mackey demonstrates a greater discomfort with roping people into uniform groups based on ethnicity or gender, as well as with delineating their space in society. Somerville P 97

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Nathaniel Mackey's nuanced heterosexual male perspective !Without the same political motivations for disavowing the inuence that the Black Mountain poets had on him, Mackey openly discusses the importance of Projectivism. In "Robert Creeley's The Gold Diggers : Projective Prose ," Mackey discusses the importance of Olson and Creeley's concept of poetry's relationship to identity. Both disagreed with the Objectivist effort to "damn the use of the subjective method as an excuse for emotional claptrap" (Creeley, quoted in Mackey Robert Creeley, 118) and imbued their work with a parallel level of self-assertion. What Mackey appreciates about Creeley's work, particularly his ction, is the insecurity and neurosis that characterize Creeley's male speakers and characters, which are possible extensions of Creeley himself. By giving his narrator his own rst initial, Mackey likewise hints that the main character N. from From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate stems from his own self, or at least shares his perspective. While he's not as eager to describe his own self in terms of political afliation or concrete biographical information, it's relatively clear that N. writes from the perspective of a heterosexual male intellectual. However, N. constantly undermines his identity and problematizes his own perceptions, indicating a discomfort with expectations of masculinity that resonates with Creeley's discomfort. !While both Olson and Creeley participated in the creation of a masculinist projectivist tradition, Creeley's work is marked by tentative expression rather than the authoritative tone that booms throughout Olson's work. DuPlessis cites Barbara Johnson, linking Creeley's portrayal of manhood to the Petrarchan "experience of fragmentation, wounding, or loss of psychic intactness and control" (B. Johnson quoted in DuPlessis, Somerville P 98

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45). She states that "Creeleyesque manhood is constituted in the powerful investigation of the wounds of manhood" (DuPlessis, 45). Mackey notes a similar sense of physical fragility and debilitation on the part of Creeley's male characters that completely contradicts the traditional idealization of bodily integrity and mobility. He describes an "insistent awkwardness, a tendency to stumble, on the part of the men" ( Mackey, "Robert Creeley," 109). Noting Mackey's fascination with instances of stumbling or staggering in various myths, it does not surprise readers that he nds this compelling. !Unlike Olson's conception of the male psyche as authoritative, Creeley conveys a masculinity marked by futility. As Mackey notes, it is often Creeley's women rather than his men who display "surefootedness." Creeley's ction gives the "sense of women as somehow privileged or blessed, somehow exempt from the ruminative lostness, the mindat-large-within-the-quandary-of-itself that aficts the men gives rise at times to paranoid feelings of contempt" (Mackey, "Robert Creeley," 109). For this reason Mackey critiques the "binarism that is not innocent of sexist equations (man = mind, woman = matter)" present in Creeley's work (109). In Mackey's own creative work one nds numerous instances of men physically overcome by their own emotional, intellectual, or spiritual reactions, while women demonstrate strength and stability. A recurrent example of masculine fragility can be found in N.'s "cowrie shell attacks," which begin during a concert in Bedouin Hornbook and continue to plague him throughout From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate During one of N.'s relapses (caused by the death of Bob Marley), he sits staring at a wall, completely paralyzed until Aunt Nancy comes to see him. When she arrives, she realizes almost immediately the nature of his ailment, and attempts to return him to Somerville P 99

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his normal state. N. describes it as "a sort of cooing to the effect that, though she respected my sensitivity, I wasn't the only one affected by Marley's death and that, in a sense, it was egotistical of me to make so much of my grief" (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook 169). When this doesn't work, Aunt Nancy puts on a variety of records, nally nding one that breaks the spell. Aunt Nancy's resilience and nurturing instincts make her a mother gure of sorts, which Mackey seems to suggest by combining the names of both the ctive Aunt Jemima and the real-life Nancy Green who inspired the Jemima character. However, Aunt Nancy is by no means a mindless mammy gure, as she demonstrates with her intuition, intellectual capacity, musical savvy. !A similar interaction occurs in Djbot Baghostus's Run when Penguin falls under a comparable spell. In the midst of cooking dinner for the band, Penguin has a "shamanistic seizure" while chopping onions (269). He continues to chop onion after onion with robotic exactness and odd solemnity, not seeming to hear or see anything else. While he initially remains silent, his trance becomes linguistic, causing him to start on a discourse about an imagined drummer's playing style. Penguin's discourse mutates into a "long phonological run in which declarative statement [gives] way to repetitions and permutations of syllables" (271). N. states, "for all its phonemic pliability and play, Penguin's run served a sense of stutter, stammer, stuckness,' the staccato irregularity and the occasional hesitancy he spoke with emphasizing that quality all the more" (271). While N. empathizes with the perpetual immobility of Penguin, "the ultimate grounded bird," neither he nor Lambert are able to cure him (273) Again, it is Aunt Nancy who is the rst to overcome "paralysis...the rst to extend an unphantom arm, the rst to offer Penguin a reassuring hug, whispering as she did so, It'll be alright, it'll be Somerville P 100

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alright'" (274). Ultimately, it is Djamilaa who brings Penguin completely back to life. She takes Penguin's hand and says in a "partly motherly, slightly coquettish, ever so soothing tone of voice, Don't Cry, Pen, don't cry. We'll nd her'" (275). In these scenes, the reassurances that the females offer are marked by a linguistic simplicity that contrasts with the complex linguistic webs in which the males become entangled. However, this kind of simple expression is rare for both Aunt Nancy and Djamilaa, and their resilience (while abundant) proves exhaustible. !While Mackey does highlight the females' seemingly inherent maternal instincts, he subverts Creeley's mind/matter binary by making his females vulnerable to debilitating metaphysical quandary. The female members of the Mystic Horn Society are matches for the male members on an intellectual, spiritual, and musical level, which frequently results from or results in their own physical impairment or paralysis. The drummer Penny dreamt about by both Djamilaa and Aunt Nancy suffers from insomnia, from the "sense of resting on a dead man's eyelids" (Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 226). She is also kept awake by her downstairs neighbors' party, and begins to stomp around to get their attention. Her efforts become a dance of futility Mackey describes her switching from "a strong amenco stomp with the heel of her right foot to a bentlegged, limping gesture which appeared to contend with and call into question the resolve and strength of what had gone before" (228). He goes on to describe it as "the admitted limp not only telling of dues and deprivation but attesting to a capacity for translating damage into a dance" (228). Typical in Mackey's work, Penny's limping proves musically fruitful if unsuccessful in quieting her neighbors. He writes that the dance "rested on a tenuous, tottering chord' in which like-sounding notes,' all sounded at Somerville P 101

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once. IMPAIRMENT / EMPOWERMENT / IMPEDIMENT made for rickety, resilient limbs, each of which appeared stilted, possessed of a studied awkwardness; each of which, while crippled, was itself a crutch" (229). It is the restless dance that, while clumsy, marks the imagined Penny as a potential contender for the open spot in the band. !Physical impairment turns out to be equally productive for Drennette, the real-life woman who inspired the Penny dream. In Djbot Baghostus's Run, the newest addition to the Mystic Horn Society describes the incident that opened up the art of drumming for her. On a challenging uphill bicycle race with her ex-boyfriend Rick, Drennette's right pedal breaks off on a downstroke. She says, "It was like walking up a stairway and reaching for a step that isn't there" (324). She nds herself immobilized, not only by the fall but by her lingering feelings for Rick. She says, "It was crazy, me lying on the road bleeding, whispering I loved him, happy to be held and and kissed" (324). However, once again an injurious accident turns out to be useful, as this "concussive spill" shows Drennette what the "percussive spirit" is about (324) !While N. devotes time to describing the sometimes disabling weight of his female bandmates' intellectual, musical, and spiritual ruminations, he cannot seem to refrain from highlighting their material qualities. The narrative gaze is decidedly male, often providing a detailed description of the female characters' physical appearance. We see this when N. goes to Djamilaa's apartment to keep her company when she doesn't feel well enough to come to rehearsal. In the midst of a typically intellectual, metaphysical conversation, N. takes a moment to look over Djamilaa. He writes !! Somerville P 102

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!I looked at Djamilaa's thin athletic arms, the meeting of music and musculature !the rich tone of her skin evoked or achieved or insisted on. The shift she wore had !no sleeves. A bit of hair peeped out from under each arm. There was a close!to-the-bone rmness about her body which gave her the look of a dancer, !notwithstanding her large low-hanging breasts, the imprint of whose nipples I !couldn't help noticing on the shift she wore. ( Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 224) This recalls a similar treatment of Djamilaa in Bedouin Hornbook, in one of Jarred Bottle's Lecture/Librettos. Jarred Bottle, here called Flaunted Fifth, and Djamilaa engage in a wordless discourse from locations across town. While Flaunted Fifth stands in a weed-ridden eld, Djamilaa stands at her window, "wearing no panties beneath her crumpled, light cotton dress" (180). She then feels a "right hand which caress[s] her right side, eas[ing] its way down and a bit to the left to cup the rounded base of her right buttock" (180). The hand turns out to be the phantom hand of Flaunted Fifth, a "fugitive touch" that had own from his hand" (180). The hand blindly acts on the fantasies generated by N.'s invasive gaze. Because of these moments of invasion, N.'s narrative shows many of the characteristics of the traditional gaze described by Laura Mulvey in "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Mulvey writes, "in a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure" (Mulvey, 2186). Mulvey states that "the presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle...yet her presence tends to Somerville P 103

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work against the development of a storyline, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation" (2186). Throughout From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, it is always the women who are looked at rather than looking, and mens' fantasies are frequently projected onto the female form during moments of "erotic contemplation." In the aforementioned scene at Djamilaa's apartment, Djamilaa's use of the word "limbo" to describe the liminal state that she finds herself in causes N. to be "seized by a sudden desire" to kiss her all over her "dancer's" body (Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 225). While imagining her arching back into a limbo position, he sees himself between her open legs. He writes, "It was in this image that I became absorbed and caught up in" (225). This treatment of the female body again recalls an earlier Lecture/Libretto from Bedouin Hornbook in which Jarred Bottle presents to a large audience. Just when the action begins, when "the sleeping accents at large among the group now came to life with an upstart, conveyor-belt charisma all their own," Jarred Bottle can't help noticing an attractive female cellist in the front row, an image that brings the presentation to a halt and causing him to utter aloud, "an image is the stop the mind makes between uncertainties" (Mackey, Bedouin Hornbook, 141). After watching her play the cello between her legs, he becomes overwhelmed by an erotic fantasy in which the cello is "only his wishful self-projection" (142). This temporarily silences him, as "the explicitness shock[s] him, [brings] him to himself with all the abruptness of a subway stop" (142). Jarred Bottle then launches back into the lecture, which proceeds like a train, continuing onto themes that he calls stations. Even after the image of the young woman Somerville P 104

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fades into the background, the gap between her teeth and the mythical baggage that it carries (a sign of a liar in American tradition and a mark of beauty in African tradition) becomes a theme in the lecture, represented by Gap Station. The musicians that Jarred Bottle has planted in the audience pick up on the idea of Gap Station, and it becomes an integral aspect of the presentation. So, while it may seem initially that the cellist serves only as an object to be viewed and upon which to be projected, her presence contributes to the libretto's expansion of musical concepts, not only to Jarred Bottle's scopophilic gratification. The imagined female drummer named Djeannine serves a similar purpose. In his dream about her, N. places Djeannine within a place of spectacle a circus kissing booth. After kissing N. and filling his mouth with a mint-flavored liquid, she steps away from the booth and does a cartwheel. Calling her an "extrovert ingŽnue," he writes, "her skirt fell past her thighs and down past her waist while she was upside down. I caught a glimpse of her thighs, a bit of pubic hair and the reinforced crotch of her blindingly white panties. The blinding whiteness caused me to close my eyes again" ( Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 211). While there certainly is an element of spectacle in Djeannine's actions, and an element of scopophilic fetishization in N's description of her, every action she performs is interwoven with the music that informs the dream. Mackey includes footnotes that let the reader know what song each of her actions refers to. For example, when she kisses him, the mint liquid moves through his blood, a "menthol rush converting [his] hair, skin, and skull to crystal" (211). The footnote provided links this to the song "You Go to My Head" off of Coleman Hawking's album The Hawk Flies Somerville P 105

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Female sexuality is made prominent by the narrative because it is indelibly linked to musical creation, in which females play a powerful role. While one detects a patriarchal impulse to portray women as muses, women are not confined to this role, as they frequently play the role of creator. Mulvey's theories can be successfully applied to Mackey's narrative gaze in many instances. However, Mackey's artistic world is not "ordered by sexual imbalance," as female characters actively participate in the development and expansion of musical and intellectual discourse. In fact, the Mystic Horn Society makes concerted efforts to ensure that the band is balanced, deciding to limit their search for a drummer to women. The only imbalance occurs in terms of perspective, as we never get a clear idea of what the male characters look like, and certainly not what they look like to the female characters. Perhaps one can attribute the absence of a female gaze, or rather Mackey's decision to write from singularly male perspective, to the fact that the heterosexual male perspective is the most available, or possibly the only perspective available to him. While the invasive male gaze cannot be ignored and may occasionally be troubling to female readers, Mackey does not create the same kind of rigid male perspective created by Olson and Baraka. Mackey plays with variations within the male perspective in ways that don't conform to normative masculinist approaches. One of the ways Mackey does this is by challenging the bodily integrity of the male subject. N.'s dream about Djeannine in Djbot Baghostus's Run begins with him lying on his back while in a meadow, looking at Djeannine standing on a nearby summit. From this perspective she appears to be hovering between his legs. He says in a following Somerville P 106

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letter, "I haven't been able to shake that initial image or feeling or sense of lying on my back with my legs open and my knees looming, Djeannine standing partly between and partly above them, partly in' and partly out' as if newly emerging or (this is the part that bothers me) going back in" ( Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 221). N. considers the concept of "inverse birth" or a masculine womb to be "problematic" on a metaphysical level (221). He writes, "A man giving birth to a woman is bad enough. A woman returning to a masculine womb is even worse" (221). The nature of the problem seems to lie primarily in the question of whether or not giving birth is a masculine action or a feminine action, despite the biological link between reproduction and bodies biologically categorized as female. N.'s quandary recalls Butler's efforts to problematize or complicate gender, for example in her statement, "That the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality" (Butler, 2497). If masculinity is no longer indelibly linked to the act of penetration and impregnation a notion that is essential to Baraka and Olson's concept of both poetic creation and social unity then the penetration and impregnation of a man (perhaps even by a woman) is possible on a metaphysical if not biological plane. N's use of the word "problematic," or his suggestion that a woman entering a man is "worse," suggests that he is uncomfortable with the idea, likely because of his hetero-normative perspective. Butler writes, "the naturalized notion of the body' is itself a consequence of taboos that render the body discrete by virtue of its stable boundaries...The rights of passage that govern various bodily orifices presuppose a heterosexual construction of gendered exchange, positions, Somerville P 107

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and erotic possibilities" (Butler, 2494). While N's momentary unease reminds readers of the hetero-normative emphasis on masculine bodily impermeability, N's desire to explore the implications of his dream suggests Mackey's willingness to engage with nonnormative gender discourse. The word "problematic" as N. uses it probably has positive as well as negative connotations, considering the importance of linguistic, social, and spiritual tensions to the production of art in Mackey's creative world. N.'s contemplation of the inverse birth image leads to a contemplation of his dissatisfaction with a musical piece that he had previously created. In turn, this dissatisfaction results in the disjointing of his body, "the rumbling of an Ayleresque anthem hum[ming] and whistl[ing] thru [his] groin like radioactive water, a luminous doomed lament scored for hollowed-out pelvis played on dislocated flute" ( Mackey, Djbot Baghostus's Run, 222). He continues, "The nervous vibrato of some such renovated brass-band concept upwardly displaced makes for states of election where, like a bird on a wire, my right clavicle trills as though emptied out and blown upon" (222). The image of a bone flute that emerges in this passage reappears in both male and female bodies throughout his fiction and his poetry to evoke the birth of song. In Splay Anthem, it appears as a "legbone flute." For example, the poem "Sound and Semblance" introduces the image in the lines "blown / rush, thrown voice, legbone / flute" (55). The act of playing a "legbone flute" visually recalls oral sex with a woman, an action which Mackey connects to artistic creation elsewhere in Splay Anthem. Moreover, the word legbone aurally recalls the name Legba, the patron deity of communication between humans and gods. Somerville P 108

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Recurring images of bone flutes, particularly the legbone flute, create simultaneous associative links between music, sex, and spiritual transcendence. Certain images suggest that the speaker of the poem is a man seeking transcendence via sex with a woman. Images of oral sex occur frequently, often associated with communication or the search for knowledge. In "Beginning with Lines By Anwar Naguib," Mackey writes "Ship of / state' vested every tongue, every/ one's ambiguous wish, ubiquitous / mouth she / recalled extolling, him putting / his lips to her between-the-legs / lips" ( Splay Anthem, 9). From there the poem moves directly to vocal music, or "abstract scat," fortifying the connection between sex and song (9). Mackey again ties sex to the search for knowledge in "Song of the Andoumboulou: 58," where the "he her ecstatic exegete, wishing / the world away, nose between her / legs as in a book...Comes up for / air" (109). While there are certainly female and male figures or presences, Splay Anthem seems to be written from an ambiguous perspective. The speaker mostly identifies him/ herself as "we," or "andoumboulous we," referring to the Dogon myth of the Andoumboulou, a sort of Neoplatonic rough draft of humans comprised of a male and a female sharing the same space if not physical body. While there are occasionally masculine or feminine overtones, it is never absolutely clear which part of "we" is speaking at any one point. Mackey offers gendered pronouns in some instances, but these pronouns could very well point to presences in the book not necessarily associated with the speaker(s), for example the figure Nunca/Anuncia that crops up in several poems. Mackey treats the pronoun issue directly in "Song of the Andoumboulou: 46," which Somerville P 109

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features the rare occurrence of an I, perhaps the same I that is speaking when "we" becomes "they." He writes, I pulled him aside to say braids unravel, a meddler to my chagrin. "So Night sits me down before...,'" he began but broke off, knew I knew what came next. "I sistren," I said, not yet knowing what I said, myself no more the he than the she of it regardless ( Splay Anthem, 48) While readers are sometimes presented with images that suggest a female or male body, or descriptions of actions that are traditionally proscribed to one gender or the other, it's difficult to trace the actions or the voice of the "he" and the "she." Bodily appearance and bodily action become physical signifiers that fail to point to a definitive signified, recalling Butler's understanding of identication "as an enacted fantasy or incorporation" (Butler, 2497). She writes, Somerville P 110

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!it is clear that coherence is desired, wished for, idealized, and that this idealization !is an effect of a corporeal signication. In other words, acts, gestures, and desire !produce the effect of an internal core or substance, but produce this on the surface of the body, through the play of signifying absences that suggest, but never reveal, !the organizing principle of identity as a cause." (2497) While Mackey offers his readers some signiers (i.e. decidedly female characters in his ction or images of the female body in his poetry), the signied (the identity of his characters/speakers) remains veiled. While its possible to point to large underlying characteristics of women in Mackey's work for example the ability of females to provide emotional support and spiritual transcendence or to inspire musical creation/ mythical rumination its difcult to make a denitive statement as to what role women play in his work, or to nd concrete characteristics of the female identity. It's virtually impossible to make a statement concerning Mackey's views on what function women fulll or should fulll in society. In Mackey's ction, women fulll all the same functions as men they are musicians, intellectuals, and liberated individuals. The narrative gaze, while it tends to emphasize women's sexuality, does not result in pure objectication. Either actual or imagined sexual intercourse (largely heterosexual in nature) is fundamental to Mackey's project, but not at the expense of either gender. In other words, women become no less important by virtue of being sexualized. Somerville P 111

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Conclusion !Different concepts of masculinity cannot always be attributed to a generational divide, as evidenced by the diverging ideas about gender proposed by Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, two members of the same generation and the same poetic school. Despite Amiri Baraka's break from Black Mountain poetics, Charles Olson's traditionally patriarchal masculinity continued to resonate throughout Baraka's work, often coinciding with the patriarchal attitudes espoused by certain branches of the Black Nationalist movement. Poems like "Black Dada Nihilismus" and "Black Art" played on the stereotype of the black rapist that permeated the white cultural imagination, causing many to take Baraka's work literally and to write him off as a sexual deviant. While the sensibilities found in Baraka's Black Nationalist work seemed to threaten the sexual codes of the era, looking at his entire career suggests that Baraka's concept of gender was ultimately more conservative than radical, as his later work is highly invested in encouraging the black community to return to a more traditional family structure. !The apolitical stance taken by Mackey makes it difcult for readers to determine his views on the social functions of men and women. While the instability of Creeleyesque manhood inuenced Mackey's own concept of masculinity to a large degree, Mackey's challenge to binary gender codes and to the possibility of essential gender identities aligns him with contemporary feminists like Judith Butler. The ways in Mackey's characters and speakers perform gender can be attributed to a degree to Mackey's position as an heir to poststructuralist thought writing during third-wave feminism. In his artistic world, identities are constantly undermined by the problematic Somerville P 112

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constructions of gender within which or against which the characters work. Even biological notions of gender are called into question because the surreal, hallucinatory quality of Mackey's work facilitates the distortion of perceptions and the collapsing of individual identities. While Mackey does not share Baraka's radical separatist politics, nor imbue his work with bombastic political statements, his concept of gender, like his concept of linguistics and his appropriation of non-normative spiritual practices, indicates a perspective on society that's in many ways more radical than Baraka's. Somerville P 113

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Conclusion Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey both challenge a crystallized notion of a "black aesthetic." They pursue many of the same questions, forcing readers to ask, what is the status of notation in black literature and music? What are the boundaries between music and language? How are those boundaries both preserved and dissolved by writing? Is there an inherent black identity and, if so, does an effective way of expressing that identity exist? Baraka and Mackey's approaches to answering these questions place them in two distinct camps within the realm of black postmodernism. As public figures, they inhabit different spaces in the cultural imagination. On the one hand there is Baraka, who presents himself as a militant cultural nationalist intent on claiming musical and poetic performance as powerful vehicles for artistic and political revolution. On the other there is Nathaniel Mackey, with a subdued public persona, ambiguous political beliefs, and a penchant for esoteric opacity. Because of the highly experimental nature of their work, Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey force us to re-examine terms like "unconventional" and "radical." It's certainly feasible to call Amiri Baraka an unconventional or radical poet because of the drastic shifts in his career and because of his inflammatory political statements. However, to judge his poetics according to his politics is to ignore his complicated struggle with transracial aesthetic conventions. According to Mackey, Somerville P 114

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Baraka proved to be a signal example not only of what was possible but also of certain constraints that racialized dichotomy and the grid of expectations keep in place. His anxieties over the anomaly he took himself to be bespoke the power of that taxonomy and its attendant simplicities, their power even over someone whose existence and work prove them wrong ("Expanding the Repertoire," 242). Baraka changed many aspects of his practice to correspond to his political views, a shift that encouraged negative criticism. Many critics have framed his move away from Beat/ Black Mountain poetics as a downturn in his career because they see his evasion of poetic obscurity as an effort to "dumb down" his work, favoring sloganeering over poetic innovation 14 While his break from white avant-garde society may have been extreme, white avant-garde techniques never fully disappeared from his project. While Baraka's ideological shifts were drastic, his attitudes were not foreign to Western culture. While his transition towards speech-based poetics in the name of reclaiming his African heritage went hand-in-hand with a fanatical era in his career, the impulse behind his valorization of speech over text can be traced back to Plato. His troubled stance towards the practice of writing can be found in Western philosophy going back to Rousseau. Although Baraka's position as a Black Power leader added a unique racial agenda to his project, his use of art to combat bourgeois cultural dominance had already been done by the Surrealists and Dada artists of previous generations, and again by Beat poets in the 1950's. Aldon Nielson asserts that the totalizing impulse," in Somerville P 115 14 Nielson, Black Chant 193.

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Baraka's work that "led him first to Cultural Nationalism and then to Marxism, may be of a piece with an odd conservatism that has to see the new as both ancient and derived" ( Black Chant, 107). Rather than framing Baraka's practice as a departure from literary tradition, Nielson emphasizes the importance of recognizing that modernity, perhaps postmodernity, is not foreign to but constituent in African and African-American art forms. The strategy, then, was never to "catch up" with Euro-American modernism but rather to interrogate it, rupture it, and reclaim an unacknowledged black modern that had existed within and as enabling strata (107). Baraka was not alone in his endeavor, but part of a widespread movement to reconcile the ideology and aesthetics of white modernism with African American life in the postmodern age. According to Nielson it remains "crucial that we see Baraka not as LeRoi Jones, the lone voice of African America in the midst of the New American Poetry...but as one of several young artists...who had set out independently to find modes of remastering and disfiguring modernism in a poetics of black expression" (107). While Baraka and his contemporaries saw the flaws in Euro-centric modernism, they did not completely do away with modernist forms, making their break from "white" aesthetics not as dramatic as it is often perceived to be. Another aspect of Baraka's practice that shocked audiences was his performance technique. While vocal jazz stylings were not unfamiliar on the existing poetry scene, Somerville P 116

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Baraka ushered in a new era of screaming, screeching, and honking evocative of more radical avant-garde jazz. His employment of dramatic reading techniques often coincided with his more flamboyant poems like "Black Art," linking extreme performance technique to militant politics. Although his stylings are characteristic of the "new thing" era in jazz, and although he navigated unchartered areas of performance practice, his use of musical techniques to drive home a rhetorical point (seen in his performance of "It's Nation Time") belongs to a long-standing convention within African American culture. His use of repetition in particular recalls the techniques of preachers in the black protestant church. To borrow Norman Finklestein's terminology, he incorporates the practices of religiously normative institutions. Along with "normative," "conservative" might seem like one of the last words one would expect to use in relation to Baraka. His bombastic political statements often pose the greatest challenge to readers because of the racially essentialist attitudes and vehement disdain for white culture that they convey. Even after his social attitudes changed and he had abandoned his belief in violent rebellion as a viable vehicle for change, Baraka was followed by the shadow of his past image as a black nihilist. In reality, Baraka became part of a well-established uplift tradition that espoused paternalistic responsibility and encouraged conservative power dynamics within the family. While Baraka's calls for a black revolution may have deeply troubled those invested in maintaining the status quo (i.e. white political, economic, and cultural domination), the society he ultimately proposed was in some ways analogous to the contemporary white patriarchy. Somerville P 117

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While Baraka's work threatened the intellectual institutions of the era because it challenged the culture that has historically dominated them, Mackey challenges some of Western philosophy's most foundational concepts. Unlike Baraka, Mackey does not appear as a revolutionary figure. During readings he employs more traditional academic performance technique, staying faithful to the text and maintaining a subdued, monotone delivery. His aversion to radical politics and aggressive assertions of masculinity make him seem tame in comparison to Baraka. Despite appearances, Mackey works within a theoretical framework that forces us to question basic notions of language and identity. While Baraka's employment of orality and text is marked by a certain level of anxiety, Mackey's is marked by a kind of resignation. Acknowledging the impossibility of attaching concrete or universal meaning to language, his work does not indicate Black Arts Movement hang-ups about accessibility or authenticity. He refuses to look at oral culture with a nostalgic view, preferring to investigate oral cultures that recognize the instability of language particularly the Dogon tribe of Mali, whose concept of "the creaking of the word" provides a foundational conceptual model. Situating this term as the name the Mali people give a block of wood central to their process of weaving cloth, Mackey describes "the creaking of the word" as "the noise upon which the word is based, the discrepant foundation of all coherence and articulation, of the purchase upon the world fabrication affords" ("Introduction," 19). He writes that his practice of discrepant engagement, rather than suppressing or seeking to silence this noise, acknowledges it. In its anti-foundational acknowledgement of founding noise, discrepant engagement...voic [es] reminders of the axiomatic exclusions upon which positings of identity and meaning Somerville P 118

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depend" (19). He remains eager to explore the many ways in which written and spoken language inform and problematize one another, refusing to rely solely on oral modes or oratory approaches to get any message across. Megan Simpson defines his practice as "Trickster Poetics," linking Mackey's narrative and poetic structure to that of the trickster, a well known figure in the mythology of various oral cultures. She writes, no longer relegated to orality, tricksters have extended their territory to include contemporary written literatures, especially works by authors writing from historically marginalized cultural positions...Tricksters in these postmodern texts do not always appear as characters or figures... the trickster functions in the work primarily on the level of discourse itself" (Simpson, 38). Keeping the multiple interpretations of oral culture in mind, Mackey refuses to separate it from literate culture, nor does he refuse to negate the importance of text, even during readings. While the preacher-like tactics that Baraka incorporates during readings are familiar to mainstream America, Mackey's shamanic approach is less so. Norman Finklestein asserts that Mackey's "textual practices both wound and heal, unsettling the linguistic and psychosocial expectations of his readers" (Finklestein, 26). While Baraka's aggressive public persona can be easily identified in the Western cultural imagination, Mackey embodies an intellectualism that is harder to contextualize. In an interview with Mackey, Charles Rowell discusses the difficulty that Mackey's poetry poses to contemporary readers, the majority of whom are accustomed to poetry with an autobiographical or confessional bent" that features an identiable speaker and perhaps even a set of experiences to which the reader can relate (Mackey, interview by Rowell, Somerville P 119

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703). He asserts that Mackey's poetry, on the other hand, "operates in an epic field, in a cosmic field, a field beyond what is immediate in our daily lives" (704). He states, Your poems inhabit spaces that we don't immediately know. They are spaces of the spirit. They are spaces in meditation...They are spaces beyond this physical landscape...beyond time. What is the uninitiated reader to do?" (704). In short, Mackey's work requires readers to completely re-evaluate the way they approach poetry. Rowell points to an aspect of Mackey's work that makes it radical his nebulous subjectivity. Naylor picks up on Mackey's innovative approach to forming a poetic subject, stating settling neither for the shattered I of postmodernity or the autotelic I of the Enlightenment, Mackey's work consistently presents the I as ensembleas a band of multi-instrumentalists who sometimes harmonize and sometimes don't, yet who are bound together by the hope of creating a beautiful, albeit discrepant, engagement with one another" (Naylor, 501). Without a dominant subject, Mackey is able to play with multiple perspectives. The mutability of his subjects' identities makes them difficult to attach to any one political faction, cultural background, or gender. While he centers his fiction around a narrator who appears to be a heterosexual male, the speaker maintains a inquisitive stance towards that identity. He frequently investigates the non-normative aspects of masculinity, calling into question what constitutes a masculine identity. Furthermore, the structure of Mackey's fiction and its emphasis on conversation and correspondence create space for multiple voices that complicate the speaker's perspective. His poetry makes the question of identity even more complex, as speakerhood gets thrown out completely in favor of a fluid, ambiguous voice. Somerville P 120

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Mackey's questioning of identity points to the many ways in which he works outside of the conventions of African American writing, conventions that have been established by anthologies. Unfortunately, many anthologies position oral story-telling in opposition to innovative textual practice, and in the process perpetuate the exclusion of black writers from certain kinds of critical discourse. As Nielson notes, the dismissal of academia's relevance to black writing and vice versa reinforces unproductive racial boundaries that obscure a complete understanding of black literature. He writes "If an intertextual history of African-American poetics is to succeed, it must also take as part of its assignment a study of the multitudinous ways in which black writings relate themselves to those writings by whites that seem to afford openings for transracial signifying practices" ( Black Chant, 36). Both Baraka and Mackey's work shows that a writer can be simultaneously deeply rooted in black tradition, white tradition, modernist practice and postmodern practice, and continue to employ all of those modes in his work. Whatever can be said about their different projects, Baraka and Mackey are secure in their positions as experimental writers who actively engage with the poetics that preceded their entrance onto the literary stage, and who have contributed greatly to a transracial body of literature. Despite Baraka's continued use of Surrealist, Black Mountain and Beat aesthetics, his name remains virtually inextricably linked to the Black Arts Movement, and justifiably so, considering his enormous contribution to the school. Mackey's work, on the other hand, has yet to be satisfactorily situated in the literary spectrum. The ways in which Mackey's work defies conventional categorization makes it tempting to call for the Somerville P 121

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formulation of a separate literary tradition of black experimental writing. However, as Mackey notes, to do so would be to participate in "the subtle and not-so-subtle apartheid which is the history of this country and continues to be part of the social fabric and the assumptions that govern a great deal of social life, most of social life" (Mackey, "Interview by Ed Foster," 272). Denying an "obligation to assert" a separate literary tradition, he states, "the thing that needs to be emphasized is that separation is a consequence of social practices that we're supposed to be against" (272). Mackey is certainly not the only African American poet who incurs difficulty, nor the only poet who currently works in an undefined mode. Fortunately, new non-essentialist discourses are emerging around the work of Mackey and contemporaries like Ed Roberson, Will Alexander, Harryette Mullen, and Erica Hunt. Aldon Nielson's commentary on poet Will Alexander, for example, seems equally applicable to Mackey. Nielson writes Among those American poets whose works have most powerfully instigated further innovations in the 20th century, the major portion have chosen to work in the patterns explored by William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes. The aesthetics that have evolved from the experiments of those poets have wedded radical formal innovations to a quotidian language, seeking in the rhythms of American idioms for their formal occasions. Will Alexander has taken a path considerably less traveled....Where the radical compression brought from the blues and from modernist free verse provoked poets such as Amiri Baraka and Clarence Major to Somerville P 122

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experiment with syntactic disruption, Alexander has moved to an ever more expansive exploration of the semantic register. ("Will Alexander's Transmundane Specific," 414) Nielson's reading of Alexander takes into account Alexander's deep involvement in distinctly American as well as European, African, and Caribbean modes. Furthermore, it does not seek to define Alexander's project in a way that Alexander himself would not, as Alexander stated in an interview that when it comes to putting writers in literary boxes, he would rather "just throw the box away" (Alexander, 408). When asked by Harryette Mullen in that same interview how he feels about the institutionalized African American canon and the fact that it inevitably will exclude certain writers, such as [Alexander], while including others" Alexander replied "I don't need it. I'm what you could call a maroon. I'm a psychic maroon" (Alexander, 401-402). A community of "maroon" writers, writers who are excluded or exclude themselves from both the mainstream and what Mullen calls any academically and pedagogically oriented canon," (Mullen, 402) seems to be evolving. In fact, the maroon impulse behind experimental writing goes back to the NŽgritude movement. AimŽ CŽsaire links his poetic innovation to the act of marronage in the poem "The Verb Marroner" / For RenŽ Depestre, Haitian Poet." He writes, It is true this season that they're polishing up sonnets for us to do so would remind me too much of the sugary Somerville P 123

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juice drooled over there by the distilleries on the mornes when slow skinny oxen make their rounds to the whine of mosquitoes Bah! Depestre the poem is not a mill for grinding sugar cane absolutely not and if the rhymes are flies on ponds without rhymes for a whole season away from ponds under my persuasion lets laugh drink and escape like slaves (CŽsaire, 369) Contrasting both stagnant literary tradition and utilitarian uses of language with the tradition of marronage, CŽsaire defines his poetic approach in terms of escape or selfexclusion. There are many writers today who participate in literary marronage, making their work difficult to pin down. As someone who began writing during the Black Arts Movement but who is not necessarily associated with the Black Arts Movement canon, Mackey's contemporary Ed Roberson states that isolation from well-defined groups of writers during his formative years encouraged innovative practice. In an interview with Randall Horton he stated I was really lucky to have been left out there, to have been Somerville P 124

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marginalized like that. It gave me a chance to see what I could do on my own. If I had been part of a school, whether in terms of a movement or in terms of an educational institution, the work would have turned out much different. I considered myself lucky not to have been pressured like that" (Roberson, 776). Perhaps like Roberson, Mackey's status as a literary fugitive makes his work more compelling. In "Other: From Noun to Verb," he expresses a wish that the mainstream critical community can overcome its preconceived notions of what African American literature should look like. He writes, "Perhaps we can make it possible for...Ed Roberson's Lucid Interval as Integral Music or Will Alexander's The Black Speech of the Angel to win the sort of acclaim accorded Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah, Amiri Baraka to be as well known for The Dead Lecturer as for Dutchman" (285). He states that, in order to see that happen, "we must ˆ la CŽsaire, confront...neo-traditionalism...with a countertradition of marronage divergence, flight, fugitive tilt" (285). While the impulse to situate Mackey's work within a defined tradition may be natural, perhaps the desire to attach Mackey to a literary school is misguided. His most valuable contribution to the literary world might be the ways in which he demonstrates the fallacy in attempting to distill any single tradition. Somerville P 125

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Kim, Daniel Won-Gu. "In the Tradition': Amiri Baraka, Black Liberation, and Avant!Garde Praxis in the U.S." African American Review. 37.2/3. (2003): 345-363. Kristeva, Julia. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. Lacan, Jacques. "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious." Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. ed. Vincent B. Leitch et al. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. 1290-1302. Print. Mackey, Nathaniel. Bedouin Hornbook. From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still !Emanate. 1. Callaloo Fiction Series. Lexington, University of Virginia, 1986. !Print. ---. "Blue In Green: Black Interiority." Paracritical Hinge. Madison: University !of !Wisconsin Press, 2005. 199-206. Print. ---. Djbot Baghostus's Run. From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate !Volumes 1-3. New York: New Directions Books, 2010. 195-376. ---. "Expanding the Repertoire." Paracritical Hinge. Madison: University of Wisconsin !Press, !2005. 240-243. Print. ---. "Gassire's Lute: Robert Duncan's Vietnam War Poems," Paracritical Hinge. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. 71-178. Print. ---. Interview by Charles Rowell. Nathaniel Mackey. Spec. issue of Callaloo. 23. 2. !(2000): 703-716. ---. Interview by Christopher Funkhouser. Paracritical Hinge. Madison: !University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. 251-267. Print. ---. Interview by Ed Foster. Paracritical Hinge. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, !2005. 268-285. Print. Somerville P 131

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---. "Introduction: And All the Birds Sing Bass," Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, !Cross-!Culturality, and Experimental Writing. New York: Cambridge University !Press, 1993. 1-21. Print. ---. "On Edge." Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and !Experimental Writing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 260-264. !Print. ---. Other: From Noun to Verb." Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross !Culturality, and Experimental Writing. New York: Cambridge University Press, !1993. 265-285. Print. ---."Robert Creeley's The Gold Diggers," Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross!Culturality, and Experimental Writing. New York: Cambridge University Press, !1993. 104-120. Print. ---. "Sight-Specic, Sound-Specic" Paracritical Hinge. Madison: University of !Wisconsin Press, 2005. 228-236. Print. ---. "Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol," Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, !Cross Culturality, and Experimental Writing. New York: Cambridge University !Press, 1993. 231-259. Print. ---. Splay Anthem. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2006. ---. "The Changing Same: Black Music in the Poetry of Amiri Baraka." Discrepant !Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing. New !York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 22-48. Print. Matlin, Daniel. "Lift Up Yr Self!' Reinterpreting Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Black !Power, and the Uplift Tradition." Journal of American History. 93.1. (2006): !91-116. Monson, Ingrid. Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Print. Somerville P 132

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Discography Ayler, Albert. "Thank God for Women." Holy Ghost: Rare & Reissued Recordings !(1962-1970). Revenant Records, 2004. Audio. Baraka, Amiri with the New York Art Quartet. "Black Dada Nihilismus." New York Art Quartet. ESP Disk Records. 1964. Audio. ---. and Sonny Murray. "Black Art." Sonny's Time Now. Jihad Records. 1967. Audio. Brown, James. "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Soul on Top. Verve Records. 1970. Audio. Coltrane, John. "Countdown." A Love Supreme. Impulse! Records. 1965. Audio. ---. "My Favorite Things." My Favorite Things. Four Star Records. 1961. Audio. Davis, Miles. "Studio Chatter." Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet. Prestige Records. 1958. Audio. ---. "Round Midnight." Four. Blue Moon Records. 1956. Audio. Gillespie, Dizzy. "Round Midnight." Giants of Modern Jazz. Jazztone. 1955. Audio. Mackey, Nathaniel. "from Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25." Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25. Perf. Mackey, Royal Hartigan and Hafez Modirzadeh. Spoken Engine Co. 1995. Audio. Mingus, Charles. "Free Cell Block F Tis Nazi USA." Live at Montreux. 1975. Audio. Monk, Thelonious. "Epistrophy." Blue Note LP Blue Note Records. 1951. Audio. Somerville P 135