“A new book of poems—or of anything—by Mark Doty is good news in a dark time. The precision, daring, scope, elegance of his compassion and of the language in which he embodies it are a reassuring pleasure.” —W. S. Merwin
“One of the things that has been constant about Mark Doty’s work, poetry and prose, is his intense search for the exact word or phrase, of whatever issue, which lead him (and us) into the very furnace of meaning within the human story.” —Mary Oliver
“With his clarity of vision and great heart, Doty stands among us an emblematic and shining presence.” —Stanley Kunitz
Praised by the New York Times for his “dazzling, tactile grasp of the world,” Mark Doty is a renowned author of poetry and prose. He is the author of three memoirs: the bestselling Dog Years (HarperCollins, 2007), Firebird (1999), and Heaven’s Coast (1997), as well as a book about craft and criticism, The Art of Description: World Into Word, part of the popular “Art of” series published by Graywolf Press. Throughout his writings, he shows special interest in the visual arts, as is evident in his poems and also in this book-length essay, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon (2001). He is currently at work on a memoir that centers on his poetic relationship with Walt Whitman, entitled What Is the Grass.
The author of eight books of poetry, Mark Doty is the first American poet to have won Great Britain’s T. S. Eliot Prize. His first collection, Turtle, Swan, appeared in 1987. My Alexandria (1993) received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Since then he has published Atlantis (1995); Sweet Machine (1998); Source (2001); and the critically acclaimed volume of poems, School of the Arts (HarperCollins, 2005). Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems was published in 2008 and won the National Book Award for that year. In their citation, the National Book Award judges wrote, “Elegant, plain-spoken, and unflinching, Mark Doty’s poems in Fire to Fire gently invite us to share their ferocious compassion. With their praise for the world and their fierce accusation, their defiance and applause, they combine grief and glory in a music of crazy excelsis.” His next book of poetry, Deep Lane, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in April.
Gerald Stern says, “Mark Doty writes with absolute exactitude, with one eye on the ideal or absolute and one on the real; the ghost of Walt Whitman on one hand, and a laundromat on 16th Street in New York, on the other. There is not a finer, more delicate, more sublime poet writing today in the English language. It’s a poet’s job to show us what we knew but never saw before; and it’s a poet’s job to tell us over and over what love is. Doty is this poet.” Philip Levine remarks, “If it were mine to invent the poet to complete the century of William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, I would create Mark Doty just as he is, a maker of big, risky, fearless poems in which ordinary human experience becomes music.”
In addition to the National Book Award, Doty has also received two NEA fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize. As the award citation for the last of these noted, “Mark Doty’s poems extend the range of the American lyric.” In 2011 Doty was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Doty is a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University, and also teaches in NYU’s low-residency MFA program in Paris.
Mark Doty is the author of eight books of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the 2008 National Book Award, and My Alexandria, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of three memoirs: the bestselling Dog Years, Firebird, and Heaven’s Coast, as well as a book about craft and criticism, The Art of Description: World Into Word. Doty has received two NEA fellowships, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize. His next book of poetry, Deep Lane, is forthcoming in April 2015.
DEEP LANE (2015)
Deep Lane is a book of descents: into the earth beneath the garden, into the dark substrata of a life. But these poems seek repair, finally, through the possibilities that sustain the speaker above ground: art and ardor, animals and gardens, the pleasure of seeing, the world tuned by the word.
from “Deep Lane”
Down there the little star-nosed engine of desire
at work all night, secretive: in the morning
a new line running across the wet grass, near the surface,
like a vein. Don’t you wish the road of excess
led to the palace of wisdom, wouldn’t that be nice?
FIRE TO FIRE: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (Poetry, 2008)
National Book Award winner, Fire to Fire, collects the best of Mark Doty’s seven books of poetry, along with a generous selection of new work. Our mortal situation, the evanescent beauty of the world, desire’s transformative power, the dignity of the powerless, the instructive presence of animals, and art’s ability to give shape to human lives: Doty’s subjects echo and develop across twenty years of poems that speak to the crises and possibilities of our times.
DOG YEARS: A MEMOIR (Memoir, 2007)
“To be loved by Doty, as a human or a canine, is to be elevated into a realm of utter glory, where one is cherished and cradled, sheltered and supported, and, most of all, where one’s very essence is acknowledged and appreciated in a manner both simple and sublime. In his latest elegant and elegiac memoir, Doty recounts how the love of two dogs, Arden and Beau, sustained him during times of his most grievous losses, and how he, in turn, came to nurse them through their inevitable years of failing health. On the brink of a life-threatening depression, Doty recognized the necessity of caring for his beloved dogs, which then metamorphosed into a life-affirming realization that he was, in fact, the one being attended. Sprinkled among poignant and merry anecdotes about typical and peculiar doggie behavior are Doty’s tender yet cogent reflections on the underlying truths such conduct reveals about the canine species, observations that transcendently celebrate the essential connection between man and pet.” —Carol Haggas, Booklist
DOG YEARS (excerpt from memoir)
No dog has ever said a word, but that doesn’t mean they live outside the world of speech. They listen acutely. They wait to hear a term—biscuit, walk—and an inflection they know. What a stream of incomprehensible signs passes over them as they wait, patiently, for one of a few familiar words! Because they do not speak, except in the most limited fashion, we are always trying to figure them out. The expression is telling: to “figure out” is to make figures of speech, to invent metaphors to help us understand the world. To choose to live with a dog is to agree to participate in a long process of interpretation—a mutual agreement, though the human being holds most of the cards.
The little goats like my mouth and fingers,
and one stands up against the wire fence, and taps on the fence-board
a hoof made blacker by the dirt of the field,
pushes her mouth forward to my mouth,
so that I can see the smallish squared seeds of her teeth, and the bristle-whiskers,
and then she kisses me, though I know it doesn’t mean “kiss,”
then leans her head way back, arcing her spine, goat yoga,
all pleasure and greeting and then good-natured indifference: She loves me,
she likes me a lot, she takes interest in me, she doesn’t know me at all
or need to, having thus acknowledged me. Though I am all happiness,
since I have been welcomed by the field’s small envoy, and the splayed hoof,
fragrant with soil, has rested on the fence-board beside my hand.