The Caribbean Philosophical Association’s 2024 Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to Nathaniel Mackey

Headshot of Professor Nathaniel Mackey

The Caribbean Philosophical Association is pleased to announce that Nathaniel Mackey is one of the 2024 recipients of the Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Lifetime Achievement Award.

The selection of recommended recipients is made annually by the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Awards Committee, which consists of all prior recipients of the Frantz Fanon, the Nicolás Guillén, and the Stuart Hall Awards, two appointed senior scholars, and two appointed junior scholars. For more information, please consult: 

Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Award

The Caribbean Philosophical Association is honoring the recipients for the importance of their work for the association’s ongoing project of “Shifting the Geography of Reason.” In the words of 2014’s Guillén Lifetime Achievement Laureate Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

[We] celebrate the new recipients of the awards; sisi kwa sisi (we for us/for one another/from us to us), we used to say in Kiswahili.

Nathaniel Mackey was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up, from age four, in California. He received a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is the author of twelve chapbooks of poetry, Birds Anonymous (Verge Books, 2023) the most recent; six books of poetry, Blue Fasa (New Directions, 2015) the most recent; a boxed set comprised of three double books of poetry, Double Trio: Tej Bet, So’s Notice, Nerve Church (New Directions, 2021); and a five-volume prose/fiction work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, the last volume of which is Late Arcade (New Directions, 2017). He is also the author of two books of criticism, Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (University of Iowa Press, 2018) the most recent. Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16–25, a compact disc recording of poems read with musical accompaniment (Royal Hartigan, percussion; Hafez Modirzadeh, reeds and flutes), was released in 1995 by Spoken Engine Company; Stray: A Graphic Tone, a vinyl LP of poetry and commentary, was released by Fonograf Editions/ROMA Publications in 2019; Fugitive Equation, a double-CD collaborative performance with The Creaking Breeze Ensemble, was released by Creaking Breeze in 2019. He is the editor of the literary magazine Hambone, a coeditor, with Art Lange, of the anthology Moment’s Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose(Coffee House Press, 1993), and a coeditor, with Michael Bough, Kent Johnson and others, of the anthology Resist Much / Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance (Dispatches Editions/Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2017). His honors include the National Book Award for poetry, the Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Bollingen Prize for American Poetry from the Beinecke Library at Yale University, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Poetry Prize from the Library of Congress, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, and teaches at Duke University, where he is the Reynolds Price Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing. He has previously taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1974–1976), the University of Southern California (1976–1979), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (1979–2010). 

Jeremy Matthew Glick, whose The Black Radical Tragic (NYU Press, 2016) was a Guillén Outstanding Book of 2017, which earned him a Laureate member’s place on the Awards Committee, sent a letter to the Executive Board upon learning of Professor Mackey’s selection.  Here, with his permission, is an excerpt:

…in all Mackey revolutionizes the poetic-epistolary form with Henry Dumas-esque insurgent force.

Jean Genet famously wrote that George Jackson gave life to an epistolary form that languished since its eighteenth-century heyday (representative in the work of the likes of Samuel Richardson and its afterlives—such as the nineteenth century “epistolary activism” of Harriet Jacobs). Genet transitioned in 1986 the year of Bedouin’s publication and would have most certainly extended his timeline if given the chance to read Mackey’s work. And if all that wasn’t enough to merit recognition for lifetime achievement—Mackey’s recording with Taj Mahal “slaps” as the kids these days say. 

Nathaniel Mackey in his person as scholar, poet, performer, educator should be honored and honored again and again and again. He is like Bradbury’s iconic figure of men and women as memory-fonts committed to preserving a single book; yet Mackey’s embodied scale is the entire library! He’s such a brilliant and decent human. His example is an important bulwark against revanchist, retrograde times.   

Dr. Jacqueline Martinez, President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, agrees: 

Nathaniel Mackey’s life and work carries enormous relevance toward understanding the power and significance of artistic expression in the ongoing development of culture.  Mackey’s work shows us how the musicality of Jazz infuses linguistic expression with the vitality of cultural rebirthing beyond the static repetition of a dehumanizing culture.  Mackey’s work moves beyond art and expression as things to be seen and directs us toward the living and breathing sources of humanity.  

The awards will be formally conferred by the Chair of the Awards Committee at a special ceremony at the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s annual meeting, which will take place this June 27–30th, 2024 in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

2024 Complete list of The Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Philosophical Literature Prize Winners