School of the Arts

Overview

The darkly graceful poems in Mark Doty's seventh collection explore the ways in which we are educated by the implacable powers of time and desire. The world constantly renews itself, and the new brings both possibility and erasure. Given the limits of our own bodies, how are we to live within the inevitability of despair?

This is the plainest of Doty's books, its language stripped and humbled. But whatever depths are sounded in these poems, their humane and open music sustains. ...

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School of the Arts: Poems

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Overview

The darkly graceful poems in Mark Doty's seventh collection explore the ways in which we are educated by the implacable powers of time and desire. The world constantly renews itself, and the new brings both possibility and erasure. Given the limits of our own bodies, how are we to live within the inevitability of despair?

This is the plainest of Doty's books, its language stripped and humbled. But whatever depths are sounded in these poems, their humane and open music sustains. Art itself instructs us. Lucian Freud's startling renditions of human skin, Virginia Woolf's ecstatic depiction of consciousness, Caravaggio's only-too-real people elevated to difficult glory -- all turn the light of human intelligence upon "the night of time."

Formally inventive, warm, at once witty and disconsolate, School of the Arts represents a poet reinventing his own voice at midlife, finding a way through a troubled passage. Acutely attentive, insistently alive, this is a book of "fierce vulnerability."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Doty's vivid, inviting, descriptive verse, his celebrations of gay men's sexuality, and his heartfelt, skillful elegies, many of them in response to the HIV crisis, were '90s mainstays. Though he begins this consistently moving seventh collection with poems about famous friends (Stanley Kunitz, the novelist Michael Cunningham), Doty soon reveals the book's major subjects: paintings and painters, life in New York City, aging bodies (his own and others') and the last years or months of Arden, his beloved dog. "Paintings of dying things," Doty remarks, show how "Flesh fails and failure/ is visited upon it"; "the principal beauty of New York lies/ in human faces," though the poet also finds it in sunflowers, in a lost tropical bird, in a darkened bar. Doty has also penned two memoirs (Heaven's Coast; Firebird), and many poems stay close to incidents in his own life; contrasts between day and night (or artists' versions of both), between an imagined heaven and an observed earth, also give the volume a clear structure. "You aren't supposed/ to talk about beauty, are you?" "The Pink Poppy" asks, though it is Doty's choice, and sometimes his triumph, that he talks about it anyway. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The poetic education in this new collection from the award-winning Doty (Still Life with Oysters and Lemon) begins with the lessons he learned from others such as Stanley Kunitz and painter Helen Miranda Wilson, who taught that "heaven/ would be complete immersion/ in physical process participation in being, say,/ diesel fuel, the impatience of trucks/ on August pavement." Doty shares other lessons, such as showing what W.H. Auden called "an affirming flame" while staying completely immersed in the world. This allows Doty to achieve a quiet grandeur with a voice marked by the clarity and thoughtful lyricism that distinguished his earlier collections. Doty's gift for abstractions remains strong-beauty, for instance, is a "hook that pulls us out of time." Yet he breaks new ground here with some formal pieces. The book is filled with daily activities, neighbors, friends, and, surprisingly, a great many dogs, featured in poems that combine high and low styles to wonderful effect: "Today I am herding the two old dogs/ into the back of the car And as I go to praise them,/ the words/ that come from my mouth,/ from nowhere, are Time's children." Recommended for all poetry collections.-Ilya Kaminsky, writer in residence, Phillips Exeter Acad., NH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780224075183
  • Publisher: Cape, Jonathan Limited
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005

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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Read an Excerpt

School of the Arts

Poems
By Mark Doty

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Mark Doty
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060752467

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.

Continues...


Excerpted from School of the Arts by Mark Doty Copyright © 2006 by Mark Doty. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Heaven for Helen 1
Flit 3
Heaven for Stanley 7
Ultrasound 8
The hours 12
(Fragment) 17
Notebook/to Lucian Freud/on the veil 18
In the same space 28
Shahid's couplet 29
Oncoming train 30
Heaven for Paul 31
To Garcia Lorca 36
In their flight 39
Letter to God 42
Signal 45
Now you're an animal 47
The vault 50
1 The bootblack 51
2 Double embrace 53
3 To Caravaggio 57
4 Hood 58
5 The acknowledgment 60
6 The harness 62
7 The blessing 63
Late flight 65
Fire to fire 67
Meditation : "the night of time" 72
The stairs 76
The art auction 78
The pink poppy 83
Heaven for beau 88
Time and the town 91
School of the arts 93
Heaven for Arden 103
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