Books Honored by the National Book Awards

National Book Award Medals

The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America. Since 1996, independent panels of five writers have chosen the National Book Award winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.

The first African-American writer to win a National Book Award was Ralph Ellison for Invisible Man.

Check Out AALBC’s Coverage of the National Book Awards:  20172016201520142013


One Book Honored by the National Book Awards in 2006

Winner - Poetry

Splay Anthem
by Nathaniel Mackey




Publication Date:
List Price: $15.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
Page Count: x112
ISBN13: 9780811216524
Imprint: New Directions Publishing
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Parent Company: New Directions Publishing

Book Description: 
In a stunning new collection of poems of transport and transcendence, African-American poet Nathaniel Mackey’s "asthmatic song of aspiration" scuttles across cultures and histories—from America to Andaluc a, from Ethiopia to Vienna—in a sexy, beautiful adaptive dance.

Part antiphonal rant, part rhythmic whisper, Nathaniel Mackey’s new collection of poems, Splay Anthem, takes the reader to uncharted poetic spaces. Divided into three sections—"Braid," "Fray," and "Nub" (one referent Mackey notes in his stellar Introduction: "the imperial, flailing republic of Nub the United States has become, the shrunken place the earth has become, planet Nub")—Splay Anthem weaves together two ongoing serial poems Mackey has been writing for over twenty years, Song of the Andoumboulou and "Mu" (though "mu no more itself / than Andoumboulou").

In the cosmology of the Dogon of West Africa, the Andoumboulou are progenitor spirits, and the song of the Andoumboulou is a song addressed to the spirits, a funeral song, a song of rebirth. "Mu," too, splays with meaning: muni bird, Greek muthos, a Sun Ra tune, a continent once thought to have existed in the Pacific. With the vibrancy of a Mir painting, Mackey’s poems trace the lost tribe of "we" through waking and dreamtime, through a multitude of geographies, cultures, histories, and musical traditions, as poetry here serves as the intersection of everything, myth’s music, spirit lift.