Maxine Hong Kingston Praises Mary Mackey’s Poetry

Marsh Hawk Press has just published Mary Mackey’s new collection of poetry The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018.

This collection, which spans over 40 years of Mackey’s poetry, has received high praise from a number of well-known American poets and writers including Maxine Hong Kingston. Already into a second edition (the first edition sold out the day the book was released), Jaguars contains the best poems from Mackey’s previous 7 collections plus 47 new poems, including more poems about the beauty and terror of the jungles of Brazil, plus a series of very short poems about life on the farm in Western Kentucky where Mackey spent summers when she was a child–a place where hogs are homicidal and 80-year-old women are tough enough to fight them off with brooms.

The poems are both accessible and very wide-ranging. You’ll find passionate love poems; lyrical descriptions of the rain forests of the upper Amazon; a section called A Threatening Letter to Shakespeare in which Juliet talks about how her marriage to Romeo didn’t work out; poems from the early years of the Women’s Movement that sound as if they could have been written yesterday; poems about Goddesses, Carmen Miranda, fevers, samba, and the Kama Sutra of Kindness. There is even a poem that takes you to the place where the Ghost Jaguars live.

Praise for Mary Mackey’s The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams

“Mary Mackey’s poems are powerful, beautiful, and have extraordinary range. This is the poetry of a woman who has lived richly and felt deeply. May her concern for the planet help save it.” – Maxine Hong Kingston

“Mackey’s poems crackle with powerful, lush energy.” – Marge Piercy

“Mackey’s crisp-edged perceptions are set down with a sensuous, compassionate, and utterly unflinching eye.” – Jane Hirshfield

“It is difficult to resist the temptation to compare Mary Mackey to Elizabeth Bishop. Both poets are stunningly imagistic, musical, and awake to topography, sociology and the world beyond.” 
                                    –The Huffington Post

“Always Mackey’s eye is drawn to the marginalized, the poor, the outcast, the trivialized, the ones who stand at the center of the human adventure. [In] The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams, Mary Mackey has created an oeuvre, wider, more open to change with each passing year. Hers is a monumental achievement.”
                                                  –D. Nurske

“Her fine work deserves ever widening exposure.” –Al Young, California Poet Laureate

The poems in Jaguars are, as noted above, accessible and for the most part easily understood, yet Mackey never compromises when it comes to beauty, lyricism, depth, and a complex range of emotions. She is visionary and mystical, yet at the same time supremely rational. Take for example, her poem “Ghost Jaguars” in which we see myth, botany, and the unmapped forests of the upper Amazon welded to a a meditation on risk-taking, religion, and a hunt for meaning in both life and in its ultimate destination, which may be death or may be (Mackey hints) something more ghostly and powerful.

Ghost Jaguars

by day you told us the dead crouch in the jungle
arms wrapped around their knees
heads down blind
living in a great blueness
that expands to the horizon
like an infinite ocean

at night they rise
and hunt ghost jaguars
drink the black drink
count the trees

we threw your yopo seeds on the ground
and trampled them
begged you to come back to us
but you had already eaten your gods
gone hunting with the dead
seen the sun rise and gone blind

“Ghost Jaguars” shows not only the influence of the years Mackey spent living in the jungles of Central and South America, but also the months she spent as an undergraduate working in the Harvard Ethnobotany Museum under the guidance of Richard Evans Schultes. It is not surprising then to discover that she did her doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan on William Henry Hudson who was both a novelist and an ornithologist. Mackey has been exploring the point where science and mysticism meet for many years. The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams represents a major step in her quest.

The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams is available from and Mackey’s website can be found at, You can connect with her on FaceBook at, join her mailing list at and follow her on Twitter at @MMackeyAuthor


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