New book by literature professor melds criticism, poetry and fiction

Paracritical Hinge, a new book by UC Santa Cruz literature professor Nathaniel Mackey, offers commentary on the work of a number of artists as it simultaneously sheds light on the author's own body of work. A collection of essays, talks, notes, and interviews covering a time frame from 1990 to 2000, the diverse, yet interrelated pieces underscore Mackey's versatile work as a writer and critic.

The 18 selections in the book run the gamut from critical essays on poet Walt Whitman's interest in phrenology and Robert Duncan's Vietnam era war poems, to written adaptations of talks Mackey gave about Miles Davis's trumpet sound and the influence of Spanish poet Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca on American poetry, focusing on Lorca's concept of "duende," a prized element in flamenco singing.

The collection also includes six interviews with Mackey that appeared in such publications as the Chicago Review and Poetry Flash, as well as a piece about editing the literary journal, Hambone.

"It's a book that reflects the fact that I function not only as a literary critic, but also as a poet, fiction writer, and editor of a literary magazine," Mackey noted. "Paracritical Hinge seemed like a good title for the book because it reflects a figurative hinge on a door that permits a flow between criticism and fiction, art and commentary-the practices I engage in," he added.

The book includes an essay Mackey wrote about a CD of poetry titled Strick that he recorded along with two jazz musicians in 1994 for the Spoken Engine record label in Memphis. "I was asked by the editor of an anthology of essays to write something about poetry performance," Mackey said. "It talks about some of my attitudes toward performance and the process of collaboration."

Mackey is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, one previous book of literary criticism, and three books of poetry. He has also completed three novels in a series titled From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate--composed as letters written by a composer/multi-instrumentalist named N, a founding member of a band known as the Mystic Horn Society.

Mackey's 1985 poetry book, Eroding Witness, was selected for publication in the National Poetry Series. He received a Whiting Writer's Award in 1993 and was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2001.