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Heaven for Helen

Mark Doty: Poem, 18 December 2003

... Helen says heaven, for her, would be complete immersion in physical process, without self-consciousness – to be the respiration of the grass, or ionised agitation just above the break of a wave, traffic in a sunflower’s thousand golden rooms. Images of exchange, and of untrammelled nature. But if we’re to become part of it all, won’t our paradise also involve participation in being, say, diesel fuel, the impatience of trucks on August pavement, weird glow of service areas along the interstate at night? We’ll be shiny pink egg cartons, and the thick treads of burst tyres along the highways in Pennsylvania: a hell we’ve made to accompany the given: we will join our tiresome productions, things that want to be useless for ever ...

Theory of Beauty (Third Avenue)

Mark Doty, 22 September 2005

... Thirty-seven clocks in five tiers. Sunset, end of a mild afternoon the hand of winter’s never quite let go of. Mantel, cuckoo, rusticated, ormolu, glass-domed, moving brass balls and chimes, porcelain, French clocks with bronze figures, thirty-seven, ranged in the shop window, not especially attractive, none fine, none precious, even to my taste individually desirable, but studying them, then turning away to the last warmly tinted but almost heatless sunlight, the buildings ahead in silhouette, and then the urge to turn back to the stepped rows and suddenly the pre-eminently important thing is their fulfilment of the category clock, the remarkable divergence of means of occupying that name, honouring the terms and intent of it but nonetheless presenting an extraordinarily various set of faces to the avenue, in the warm light of the shop ...

The Hours

Mark Doty, 14 November 2002

... Big blocks of ice – clear cornerstones – chug down a turning belt toward the blades of a wicked, spinning fan; rotary din of a thousand skates and then powder flies out in a roaring firehose spray of diamond dust, and the film crew obscures the well-used Manhattan snow with a replica of snow. * Trailers along the edge of the Square, arc lamps, the tangled cables of a technical art, and our park’s a version of itself ...

Heaven for Paul

Mark Doty, 4 December 2003

... The flight attendant said: We have a mechanical problem with the plane, and we have contacted the FAA for advice, and then: We will be making an emergency landing in Detroit, and then: We will be landing at an Air Force base in Dayton, because there is a long runway there, and because there will be a lot of help on the ground. Her voice broke slightly on the word help, and she switched off the microphone, hung it back on its hook, turned to face those of us seated near her, and began to weep ...

Two Poems

Mark Doty, 21 September 2000

... Principalities of June Original light broke apart, the Gnostics say, when time began, singular radiance fractioned into form – an easy theory to believe, in early summer, when that first performance seems repeated daily. Though wouldn’t it mean each fracturing took us that much further from heaven? Not in this town, not in June: harbour and cloudbank, white houses’ endlessly broken planes, a long argument of lilac shadows and whites as blue as noon: phrasebooks of day, articulated most of all in these roses, which mount and swell in dynasties of bloom, their easy idiom a soundless compaction of lip on lip ...

Manhattan: Luminism

Mark Doty, 20 January 2000

... The sign said immunology but I read illuminology: and look, heaven is a platinum latitude over Fifth, fogged result of sun-brushed steel, pearl dimensions. Cézanne: ‘We are an iridescent chaos.’ * Balcony over Lexington, May evening, fog wreath’d towers, gothic dome lit from within, monument of our aspirations turned hollow, abandoned somehow ...

Notebook/To Lucian Freud/On the Veil

Mark Doty, 20 January 2005

... I love starting things * Fat and shadow, oil and wax, mobility solidified, like cooled grease in a can – * Seeing how far I can go *       Analiese said, happily, ‘He paints the ugliness of flesh,’       but that isn’t it: flesh without the overlayer, how we ought to see it, all we’re taught –       January sky over Seventh ...

Creases and Flecks

Laura Quinney: Mark Doty, 3 October 2002

Still Life with Oysters and Lemon 
by Mark Doty.
Beacon, 72 pp., $11, January 2002, 0 8070 6609 5
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by Mark Doty.
Cape, 69 pp., £8, April 2002, 9780224062282
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... Mark Doty specialises in ekphrasis. The word once meant the description of a work of visual art within a poem, but has come to mean poetic description more generally. Sometimes Doty describes a work of art (Murano glass, a watercolour by Elizabeth Bishop), sometimes an ordinary object (a second-hand kimono, a crab shell), sometimes a part of the natural world (beaches, horses, dogs), sometimes a man-made scene (gardens, harbours, Times Square ...

A House Full of No One

Colm Tóibín, 6 February 1997

Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 305 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 224 04390 0
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by Mark Doty.
Cape, 95 pp., £7, July 1996, 0 224 04400 1
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This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death 
by Harold Brodkey.
Fourth Estate, 177 pp., £14.99, November 1996, 1 85702 546 6
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PWA: Looking Aids in the Face 
by Oscar Moore.
Picador, 185 pp., £6.99, November 1996, 0 330 35193 1
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... The words ‘HIV Positive’ and ‘Aids’ do not appear in the poems in Mark Doty’s My Alexandria (1995); instead, they hover in the spaces between the other words, and they govern the tone of almost every poem. Now, with the appearance of Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir, we know that Doty’s boyfriend Wally Roberts was dying slowly from Aids when these poems were being written ...


Stephanie Burt: D.A. Powell’s poems, 24 September 2009

Chronic: Poems 
by D.A. Powell.
Graywolf, 79 pp., $20, February 2009, 978 1 55597 516 6
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... night’. A sterner, less interesting poet would cut such claims out; a more conventional one (Mark Doty, say) might end on ‘flash of light’. It is Powell’s genius to see when the real right amount (of emotion, of detail, of figuration) looks at first like too much, the excessive ornamentation of some drag queen (like the one in Powell’s poem ...


Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... and Prince Arthur the equivalent of a raddler, the dauber who paints the ram so that it leaves a mark when it has served the sheep. Raddle Prince Arthur and it would have settled whether the prince had successfully slept with Catherine, there would have been no marriage for Henry VIII, thus no divorce and no Reformation.29 May, Yorkshire. I’ve lost count ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... form of elegies for gay men who died of Aids. They are Thom Gunn’s The Man with Night Sweats and Mark Doty’s My Alexandria. Both books portray a world which Forster would have marvelled at, where gay happiness – pace Foucault – is the norm. If endlessness offered itself to me today I don’t think I’d have done anything differenty ...

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