- Brian P. Hochman
poet, novelist, and literary critic, was born Nathaniel Ernest Mackey in Miami, Florida, the son of Alexander Obadiah Mackey and Sadie Jane Wilcox. When Mackey was four his parents divorced, and he and his three older siblings moved from Miami to northern California with their mother. In 1958 they relocated to the southern California city of Santa Ana, where Mackey attended high school. Although Mackey neither wrote nor read seriously during these years—in fact, his earliest aspiration was to become a mathematician—weekly trips to his family's Baptist church galvanized in him a deep interest in African American music. His experiences at church, coupled with his discovery of the music of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman during high school proved formative black music would in all its varying forms eventually come to represent Mackey s literary bass line To borrow his own terminology his discrepant engagement ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.