Michael S. Harper
African religion, anthropology and folklore provide inspiration for this young black poet, who casts himself in the role of a modern griotthe storyteller/shaman whose songs are sacred to his people. The poems have a grandiose quality to them, echoing the diction of traditional chant and ancient epic in such works as “Gris-Gris Dancer,” “Song of the Andoumboulou,” “enuma elish 2,” “New and Old Gospel,” “Tarot-Teller,” “Memphite Recension.” While Mackey’s attempt to search through the ancient roots of his ancestors’ literature is a promising beginning, it often seems programmatic in the extreme and therefore less than authentic or persuasive. His griot imitations come across as derivative rather than divinely inspired or original. A first collection, this book is one of this year’s five prize-winners in the National Poetry Series, judged by Michael S. Harper.