poem index

About this poet

Mark Doty was born on August 10, 1953. He is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently A Swarm, A Flock, A Host: A Compendium of Creatures (Prestel, 2013); Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008), which received the National Book Award; School of the Arts (HarperCollins, 2005); Source (HarperCollins, 2002); and Sweet Machine (HarperCollins, 1998).

Other collections include Atlantis (HarperCollins, 1995), which received the Ambassador Book Award, the Bingham Poetry Prize, and a Lambda Literary Award; My Alexandria (University of Illinois Press, 1993), chosen by Philip Levine for the National Poetry Series, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and Britain's T. S. Eliot Prize, and was also a National Book Award finalist; Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (D.R. Godine, 1991); and Turtle, Swan (D.R. Godine, 1987).

In 2010, Graywolf Press published a collection of essays on poetry titled The Art of Description: World into Word, in which Doty asserts that "poetry concretizes the singular, unrepeatable moment; it hammers out of speech a form for how it feels to be oneself."

He has also published Heaven's Coast (HarperCollins, 1996), which received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. Other memoirs by Doty includes Firebird (HarperCollins, 1999), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy (Beacon Press, 2000), and Dog Years (HarperCollins, 2007). He has also edited The Best American Poetry 2012.

Doty has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation. He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011.

He has taught at the University of Houston and is currently serving as a Distinguished Writer at Rutgers University. He currently lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

A Swarm, A Flock, A Host: A Compendium of Creatures (Prestel, 2013)
Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008)
School of the Arts (HarperCollins, 2005)
Source (HarperCollins, 2002)
Sweet Machine (HarperCollins, 1998)
Atlantis (HarperCollins, 1995)
My Alexandria (University of Illinois Press, 1993)
Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (D.R. Godine, 1991)
Turtle, Swan (D.R. Godine, 1987)

Nonfiction

Dog Years (HarperCollins, 2007)
Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy (Beacon Press, 2000)
Firebird (HarperCollins, 1999)
Heaven's Coast (HarperCollins, 1996)

Couture

Mark Doty, 1953
1.

Peony silks,
	in wax-light:
		that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose
	candled into-
		what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?
	About gowns,
		the Old Masters,


were they ever wrong?
	This penitent Magdalen's
		wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous
	she seems to wear
		all she's renounced;

this boy angel
	isn't touching the ground,
		but his billow

of yardage refers
	not to heaven
		but to pleasure's

textures, the tactile
	sheers and voiles
		and tulles

which weren't made
	to adorn the soul.
		Eternity's plainly nude;

the naked here and now
	longs for a little
		dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer
	the invisible, every saint
		in the gallery

flaunts an improbable
	tumble of drapery,
		a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,
	satin's violin-sheen)
		raveled around the body's

plain prose; exquisite
	(dis?)guises; poetry,
		music, clothes.

2.

Nothing needs to be this lavish.
	Even the words I'd choose
		for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed,
	tortoise, mottled, splotched
		-jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,
	all cloisonné and enamel,
		a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,
	brass buttons
		tumbling to the floor.

Who's it for?
	Who's the audience
		for this bravura?

Maybe the world's
	just trompe l'oeil,
		appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;
	who could see through this
		to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume's
	the whole show,
		all of revelation

we'll be offered.
	So? Show me what's not
		a world of appearances.

Autumn's a grand old drag
	in torched and tumbled chiffon
		striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow
	fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
		thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,
	those October damasks,
		the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,
	uncountable curtain calls
		in these footlights'

dusky, flattering rose.
	The world's made fabulous
		by fabulous clothes.

From Atlantis by Mark Doty, published by Harper Perennial. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty. Used by permission of the author.

Mark Doty

Mark Doty

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award.

by this poet

poem

Late August morning I go out to cut
spent and faded hydrangeas—washed
greens, russets, troubled little auras

of sky as if these were the very silks
of Versailles, mottled by rain and ruin
then half-restored, after all this time…

When I come back with my handful
I

poem
Surface the action of the day,

a means of tracing the dynamic,
so that a jitter of blue's
sparked by little coals, 

sun a glimmer 
of the day's intent. He knows
to trace an alphabet written on water 

is to surface the action of the day,

a way of proceeding,
entering into the never-
to-be repeated,
 
a way of
poem
Helen says heaven, for her,
would be complete immersion
in physical process,
without self-consciousness—

to be the respiration of the grass,
or ionized agitation
just above the break of a wave,
traffic in a sunflower's thousand golden rooms.

Images of exchange,
and of untrammeled nature.
But if we're to become