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Nathaniel Mackey Santa Cruz, US 1974 -



For the last three decades, Nathaniel Mackey, an African-American writer on the subject of “both sides of the hyphen”, has navigated a diversity of forms and subjects. He has published poetry, fiction, essays and lectured extensively. Mackey is also the founding editor of the Hambone Literary Journal. Yet despite the diversity of its output, Mackey’s work is almost always about the possibility of “discrepant engagement” between cultures. The phrase serves both a title and an apt description of Hambone.

The magazine’s first issue was published in the spring of 1974 as a group effort by the Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University. It was dormant until 1982, when Mackey revived it as clearly different journal. With Mackey as sole editor and publisher of the Hamburger, “The main meeting place for Third World, American minority and white avant-gardists.” According to MacKey the cultivation and pursuit of networks of associations and communities of interest, inclination and affinity is a central reason for starting the magazine. “Okay, here’s my map … and we’re going to call it Hambone.”

Mackey’s Hambone covers a large region. In it he has a rich cross-cultural trickster poetics, traversing the African American vernacular and Euro-American “open form” poetics, slipping across literary boundaries and wire-cutting his way through gender constraints. Since 1982 Hambone has published everything from interviews to poetry and fiction. It also publishes reviews, essays and debates on African American culture, including a controversial conversation on the subject of black literature with Ismael Reed that Amiri Baraka later described as “straight-out agentry, and in certain circumstances could easily get these dudes iced.”

In addition to his work writing and editing, Nathaniel Mackey worked as radio disc jockey beginning as an undergraduate at Princeton’s WPRB and including nearly 30 years at Santa Cruz’s KUSP. For him the experience working on radio is inextricably linked to his writing: “I’ve long felt similarities between the processes of selection, sequencing, juxtaposition, pacing, transition, etc. that putting a radio program together entails and those involved in writing prose, writing poetry, and editing my journal, Hambone.” Further, Nate has described, from the beginning of his writing, “a pattern in which music would repeatedly impact, appear in, and be referred to in my writing, whether poetry or prose.” Listen to Nates Bass Catheral Mix below.

A Bass Cathedral Discography and Mix

traduction française par Scarlett Antonio

Pendant les trois dernières décennies, Nathaniel Mackey, un écrivain africain-américain résolu d’explorer “les deux côtés du trait d’union”, a dirigé une diversité de formes et sujets. Il a publié de la poésie, de la fiction, des essais et a considérablement donné des conférences. Mackey est aussi l’éditeur fondateur du journal littéraire Hambone. Néanmoins en dépit de la diversité de sa production, le travail de Mackey a presque toujours rassemblé une seule idée ce qu’il nomme la possibilité de “l’engagement contradictoire” entre les cultures. La phrase sert à la fois de titre pour son livre d’essais et pour la description appropriée d’Hambone.

La première édition du magazine àa été publiée au printemps de 1974 comme un effort de groupe par le Comité des Arts Performants Noirs à l’université de Stanford. Il a été dormant jusqu’en 1982, lorsque Mackey le fit revivre comme un journal considérablement différent. Avec Mackey comme rédacteur et éditeur Hambone devint connu comme “le point de rendez-vous pour le Troisiजme Monde, la minorité Américaine et les avant-gardistes blancs.” Selon Mackey la culture et poursuite des réseaux d’association et l’intérêt des communes, l’inclination et l’affinité furent sa raison principale pour commencer le magazine. “Mon idée était de mettre simplement mon sens de la communauté des écrivains et artistes sur un genre de carte  Ok, voilà ma carte… et nous allons l’appeler Hambone.

The Hambone of  Mackey covers a large area. In it he represents a man of rich poetry and crossed cultures, crossing the world of African American vernacular poetry and “open form” Eureo-American, sliding across the literary limits and shearing his way through the constraints of kind. Since 1982,  Hambone  has published everything from interviews to poetry and fiction. He also publishes reviews, essays and debates on African American culture, including controversial conversations about the function of black literature with Ismael Reed that Ami Baraka later describes as “pure chemistry and which in certain circumstances , could easily freeze his guys.”


Sun Ra, Robert Duncan, Beverly Dahlen, Jay Wright, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Carence Major, Wilson Harris, Jodi Braxton, Michael Harper, David Henderson, bell hooks, Ishmael Reed


  • Free Lance (1955)
  • Negro Digest/ Black World (1961)
  • Obsidian/Obsidian II (1975)
  • Black American Literature Forum (1976)
  • Callaloo (1976)
  • First World (1977)
  • Y’Bird (1977)
  • Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women (1984)
  • Catalyst (1986)
  • Shooting Star Review (1986)
  • Konch (1990)


  • Nathaniel Mackey. Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-culturality, and Experimental Writing, Cambridge University Press, 1993
  • “Nathaniel Mackey Interview by Christopher Funkhouser,” Poetry Flash: A Poetry Review and Literary Calendar for the West, 224 (1991)
  • Nathaniel Mackey, “Editing Hambone”, Callaloo Volume 23, Number 2, Spring 2000, pp. 665-668
  • Ronald Maberry Johnson, Abby Arthur Johnson, Propaganda and Aesthetics: The Literary Politics of Afro-American Magazines in the Twentieth Century, University of Massachusetts Press, 1979
  • Nathaniel Mackey, Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2005
  • Hambone: Destination Out BY ANDREW JORON
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