in 1987, Mark Doty has been recognized as one of the most accomplished poets in America. His syntactically complex and aesthetically profound free verse poems, odes to urban gay life, and quietly brutal elegies to his lover, Wally Roberts, have been hailed as some of the most original and arresting poetry written today.
Hailed for his elegant, intelligent verse, Doty has often been compared to James Merrill, Walt Whitman and C. The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Doty has also won a number of prestigious literary awards, including the Whiting Writer’s Award, the T. Eliot Prize, the National Poetry Series, the (2008).
I think we’re hungry for singularity, for those aspects of self that aren’t commodifiable, can’t be marketed.
In an age marked by homogenization, by the manipulation of desire on a global level…poetry may represent the resolutely specific experience.
On its publication in 1987, reviewer David Baker commended Doty for “well-ordered poetry whose primary method is anecdotal, whose speaker is singular and personal, and whose vision is skeptical.” If there was a problem in Doty’s work, Baker hypothesized, it was the poet’s “detachment from his own story”—Doty, he claimed, approached his subjects as a “privileged observer and commentator.” Doty’s status as detached observer to his own work was significantly complicated by his next volume, Vernon Shetley observed, “Doty’s writing displays tremendous craft in ways that have become fairly unusual in our poetry…And one senses in the poetry as well an admirable assurance in the choices he makes.” Jonathan Bing, who interviewed Doty for as “a real change…I was casting about for what would come next.
And what came next for me was looking around at the present and adult life,” in contrast to the poems of remembered youth in his earlier books.In best-seller, the book dealt with themes familiar to many readers of Doty’s work: death, grief and memory.The book, however, begins by focusing on Doty’s two dogs, Beau and Arden, and the relationship the poet develops with them.She compared Doty to Keats in being “poised on exact perception.When he sees the ocean—the salt spray hits you.” The critic Willard Spiegelman applauded both the work’s visual quality and its “smooth, graceful” music.Bernard Cooper in the Jaime Manrique described it as Doty’s “most satisfying book…In these pages, Doty’s writing surpasses anything he’s ever attempted before and achieves a depth and a clear-eyed splendor that left me bereft and exalted at the same time.What had begun as an oft-told story becomes an authentic tragedy.”.He has described himself as having been “a sissy”; frightened by his emerging sexual identity, he married hastily at age eighteen.After completing his undergraduate studies at Drake University in Iowa, he got a divorce and moved to Manhattan, where he paid his dues as a temporary office worker.Reginald Shepherd, in a review for noted that “unlike his contemporaries, Doty has never eschewed beauty.Indeed, beauty, its unlikely, often unexpected, yet constant recurrence and its elusive fleetingness, is central.” With that emphasis on beauty Doty brings an attention to the particular, and a deep engagement with the world.