Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Writer's Night Out: Seattle Arts and Lectures Present(ed) Mark Doty

Sundering. Vessel. Decal-ed plexiglass. Mark Doty read last night for Seattle's amazing poetry program coordinated by our own Rebecca Hoogs and it was the best reading of the season. Maybe the best poetry reading of the decade! It is a rare poet that can entertain and educate, charm and come off as completely authentic. I know I can't marry Mark Doty, but maybe I can adopt him as my poetry brother (I always wanted a brother).

Here are some of my notes from last night. From Mark Doty, "I've thought of myself as a - more is more - kind of poet." I love his lushness, his celebration of every part of life from graffiti on makeshift walls to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall -- all in one poem. He is a master of moving us through time and space -- an astronaut of the lyric line.

He seems interested in prose as much as poetry -- he explained he's "attracted to non-fiction for (its) hybridity." The elastic nature of it; he said that in his next book he moves back and forth between his ideas on Walt Whitman and his own life. The connections he makes between his work and Whitman's centered around the concept of the individual and his or her connection to the larger community. Celebration of the self, yes, but also celebration of everything the self is merely one tiny spark of, one chard of glass. My favorite Doty poem is "Mercy on Broadway" because he expands one single moment standing on Broadway into a cosmos of his life and through an easy extension, our own.

Finally, I can't wait for his second forthcoming book The Art of Description from Greywolf this summer. Doty's comments on ekphrasis are amazing -- as his commentary on Rilke's  Archaic Torso of Apollo attests. Here are a few quotes from last night:
"A good ekphrasis poem acknowledges its source and moves away from it."  "You don't need a poem to show you a work of art...(but) they are a vessel for our own emotional context, it carries our own obsessions."

I am depressed that I didn't sign up for a workshop with him today. He's teaching at Hugo House. Perhaps I should gate crash?


  1. Mark Doty is stellar. My favorite work of his is the poem "Charlie Howard's Descent."

  2. Wow, sorry to miss that! A workshop with him would be incredible! I didn't realize Hugo House was offering anything.

  3. Kelli, he was superb. I hope something else brings him to Seattle again soon. He also taught at Centrum last year. Why wasn't I there? Oh yes, I was in a wildfire in Spain instead!
    Nancy, I don't know that poem - do you know which book it's in?

  4. here's a link to charlie howard's descent text
    link to doty reading it
    i don't know the book it first appeared in. it's in doty's collected works.

  5. [Mark Doty is] "an astronaut of the lyric line" -- transporting metaphor!

    Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the SAL reading but did just re-read “Pescadero” and for the first time your favorite, “Mercy on Broadway,” with “in the sheer seamless scrim of sound this town is…” – the best long poem I’ve stayed with for a while. Thank you. My favorite of his is ""A Display of Mackerel" --

  6. Hi Geoff,
    "Mercy on Broadway" is my favorite long poem -- I think the cinematic quality of it keeps me fully present. And I confess, I am not always a fan of the long poem.

    Nancy, Thank you so much for the link to "Charlie Howard's Descent" wonderful to watch and hear Doty read it. Thank you both!