Paragon Park: Turtle, Swan; Bethlehem in Broad Daylight; Early Poems

Paragon Park houses the poems of Mark Doty's first two books of poetry, Turtle, Swan and Bethlehem in Broad Daylight along with uncollected early poems. The collection offers readers the intriguing experience of engaging with a well-known poet's first works, some previously published only in small magazines. Those unpublished poems, which end the collection, are prefaced by a note from Doty, who notes that the work is, for him, "material evidence of a former self" —poems that are not self-aware, but the work of an "apprentice." Engaging with this work is an intimate act for the reader and, seemingly, for Doty himself, who writes that part of the joy of rediscovering these poems was "seeing what have become familiar gestures or vocal strategies emerge—suddenly there I am, becoming me." Fans of Doty's work will delight in these early journeys. Take, for instance, the closing lines of the poem, "New Stars." Doty writes

Now you know the choice was yours, and arbitrary;
you drew a chalkline from yourself to any bright pole
and called it permanent. Now you are a fleck
in the bright dust of night sky, alone,
and about to be strangely happy.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.