School of the Arts: Poemsby Mark Doty
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With School of the Arts, Mark Doty's darkly graceful seventh collection, the poet reinvents his own voice at midlife, finding his way through a troubled passage. At once witty and disconsolate-formally inventive, acutely attentive, insistently alive-this is a book of fierce vulnerability that explores the ways in which we are educated by the implacable powers of time and desire in a world that constantly renews itself.
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School of the ArtsPoems
By Mark Doty
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Mark Doty
All right reserved.
Heaven for Helen
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 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 tires
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 forever.
But that's me talking. Helen
would take the greatest pleasure
in being a scrap of paper,
if that's what there were to experience.
Perhaps that's why she's a painter,
finally: to practice disappearing
into her scrupulous attention,
an exacting rehearsal for the larger
world of things it won't be easy to love.
Helen I think will master it, though Imay not.
She has practiced a long time learning to see.
I have devoted myself to affirmation,
when I should have kept my eyes on the ground.
Excerpted from School of the Arts by Mark Doty Copyright © 2006 by Mark Doty. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Mark Doty's books of poetry and nonfiction prose have been honored with numerous distinctions, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, in the United Kingdom, the T. S. Eliot Prize. In 2008, he won the National Book Award for Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is a professor at the University of Houston, and he lives in New York City.
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