Hambone’s lineage includes the poetry of Black Mountain, the San Francisco Renaissance, language poetry, and the myths and traditions of West and North Africa, Haiti, and Papua/New Guinea, as well as the history and rhythms of blues, jazz, and improvisatory music. Editor Nathaniel Mackey was born in Miami and grew up in Southern California, before attending both Princeton and Stanford universities. While at Stanford in 1974, he was one of the editors of the first issue of Hambone, which was not to appear again until 1982 when, as a better-established poet and scholar, Mackey revived the periodical (he has since gone on to publish a half dozen books of poetry, an anthology of jazz poetry, and, in 1993, a highly regarded critical work, Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing).
The revived Hambone reflects the wide interests of its editor in “cross-cultural” and experimental writing as well as writing by people of color (two of Mackey’s cultural heroes are Imamu Amiri Baraka and Guyanese novelist Wilson Harris). Mackey commented on his role as editor in an interview with Chris Funkhouser published in the print magazine Callaloo and at the Electronic Poetry Center from SUNY-Buffalo: “my idea was to simply put my sense of a community of writers and artists on a kind of map, in one place. So in Hambone 2, in which all of the material was solicited, that meant having a talk by Sun Ra and poems by Robert Duncan, poems by Beverly Dahlen, Jay Wright, fiction by Clarence Major, Wilson Harris, poems by Edward Kamau Brathwaite and so on. That issue was sort of saying, ‘OK, here’s my map, a significant part of it, and we’re going to call it Hambone.’ It seems to me that’s what little magazines do, and do best. They put out a particular editor’s sense of ‘what’s up’ out there—and you find out who ‘out there’ is interested in that.”