UCSC emeritus professor Nathaniel Mackey wins prestigious poetry prize

$100,000 award from Poetry Foundation honors lifetime achievement

Nathaniel Mackey
Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey, professor emeritus of literature at UC Santa Cruz, has been named the winner of the Poetry Foundation’s 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Presented annually to a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets.

The $100,000 award is also one of the nation’s largest literary prizes.

Established in 1986, the prize is sponsored and administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine.

Mackey taught at UC Santa Cruz for 31 years.

A poet, literary critic, fiction writer, and journal editor, he has produced a wide variety of work over the past three decades that earned him national and international recognition.

In 2006, Mackey was honored with a National Book Award in the poetry category for his book Splay Anthem. In 2010, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry.

Mackey received a Whiting Writer's Award in 1993, and he was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2001, one of the highest honors in the field of poetry.

Mackey’s books of poetry include Four for Trane, Septet for the End of Time, Outlantish, and Song of the Andoumboulou, which are widely regarded as among the most innovative examples of contemporary American experimental writing.

For many years, Mackey also hosted a radio program on Santa Cruz public radio station KUSP, "Tanganyika Strut," which focused on African music throughout the world.

He has published several book-length installments of his ongoing prose work 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 fictional band known as the Mystic Horn Society.

The humanities professor graduated with high honors in English from Princeton University in 1969 and completed his Ph.D at Stanford. He taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Southern California, where he directed the Black Studies Program, before joining the UCSC faculty in 1979.

In recognition of Mackey’s achievements, a podcast, interview and audio recordings of his poems can currently be found at poetryfoundation.org. The site includes poems from Mackey’s most recent book, Nod House (New Directions, 2011).