Each year the Coe English Department sponsors a reading from a distinguished poet in honor of Paul Engle, a Coe graduate and past director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. This year we are hosting poet, fiction writer, and critic Nathaniel Mackey, who will be on campus for a reading on October 30th. The reading will be held in Kesler Auditorium at 7:30pm.
Nate Mackey is the author of several volumes of poetry, including the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem, Whatsaid Serif, and his most recent book, Nod House. He has also published four volumes of an ongoing prose project entitled From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. When he’s not writing he can be found broadcasting jazz and world music on local radio stations.
Hear Nate Mackey read and discuss his poem “On Antiphon Island” here.
Mackey is constantly experimenting with language, using rhythms and different qualities of sound to create poetry and prose that reads like music. In a piece for Jacket Magazine, Luke Harely writes of Mackey: “He thinks like an experimental jazz musician, forever pondering ways to reinvent the art form in which he operates. By closely examining the similarities and differences between words and tones, he seeks to occupy a poetic realm populated by what I will call word-tones, a realm as free as possible from denotation.”
Mackey also experiments with point of view in his work, moving deftly from first person to first person plural and back again, blurring the identity of the speaker. In an interview for Publishers Weekly, Mackey tells an anecdote in which “the question of the “we” came up, and one of the students said something that was quite resonant for me, which was that he didn’t experience the “we” as presumptuous or as an imposition; he experienced it as an invitation. I guess that’s what it is—an invitation to the reader to identify, to include him or herself.”
At the upcoming reading, Mackey will read from his work and participate in a question and answer discussion exploring his writing, musical influences, and any questions you might have about the writing life. Mackey will close by signing books for any who are interested, and desserts will be served in Hickok lobby after the reading. As always this event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!