National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Nathaniel Mackey, Winner of the 2006 POETRY AWARD for Splay Anthem

Well now we know. I’d like to thank the judges for honoring my work with this award. To be chosen by such a distinguished group makes it all the more an honor. I’d also like to thank my publisher, New Directions, for publishing the book, in particular my editors, Barbara Epler and Jeffrey Yang for their enthusiastic, indeed rhapsodic response to the manuscript two years ago. Further, I’d like to thank Jeffrey for the extraordinary care he gave the book through every phase of production.

For me, it’s an especially resonant pleasure to be selected for an award of which William Carlos Williams was the first recipient. Williams was my first initiator into modern poetry and he became an abiding influence and presence, beginning with Pictures from Brueghel and Patterson, which I read as a teenager in the 1960s. His insistence that we have to go back to the beginning, find ground, and correlate on a new ground, has long stayed with me.

If I may, I’d like to read a passage from the end of Splay Anthem:

This award allows me to think that the poem’s “we” is more inclusive than I thought. I appreciate that. So again, my thanks to the panel of judges, and the National Book Foundation, and all of you. Thank you.