About this poet

Mark Doty was born on August 10, 1953. He is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently A Swarm, A Flock, A Host: A Compendium of Creatures (Prestel, 2013); Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008), which received the National Book Award; School of the Arts (HarperCollins, 2005); Source (HarperCollins, 2002); and Sweet Machine (HarperCollins, 1998).

Other collections include Atlantis (HarperCollins, 1995), which received the Ambassador Book Award, the Bingham Poetry Prize, and a Lambda Literary Award; My Alexandria (University of Illinois Press, 1993), chosen by Philip Levine for the National Poetry Series, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and Britain's T. S. Eliot Prize, and was also a National Book Award finalist; Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (D.R. Godine, 1991); and Turtle, Swan (D.R. Godine, 1987).

In 2010, Graywolf Press published a collection of essays on poetry titled The Art of Description: World into Word, in which Doty asserts that "poetry concretizes the singular, unrepeatable moment; it hammers out of speech a form for how it feels to be oneself."

He has also published Heaven's Coast (HarperCollins, 1996), which received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. Other memoirs by Doty includes Firebird (HarperCollins, 1999), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy (Beacon Press, 2000), and Dog Years (HarperCollins, 2007). He has also edited The Best American Poetry 2012.

Doty has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation. He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011.

He has taught at the University of Houston and is currently serving as a Distinguished Writer at Rutgers University. He currently lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

A Swarm, A Flock, A Host: A Compendium of Creatures (Prestel, 2013)
Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 2008)
School of the Arts (HarperCollins, 2005)
Source (HarperCollins, 2002)
Sweet Machine (HarperCollins, 1998)
Atlantis (HarperCollins, 1995)
My Alexandria (University of Illinois Press, 1993)
Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (D.R. Godine, 1991)
Turtle, Swan (D.R. Godine, 1987)

Nonfiction

Dog Years (HarperCollins, 2007)
Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy (Beacon Press, 2000)
Firebird (HarperCollins, 1999)
Heaven's Coast (HarperCollins, 1996)

Heaven for Helen

Mark Doty, 1953
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 I may 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.

Copyright © 2005 by Mark Doty. From School of the Arts. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Copyright © 2005 by Mark Doty. From School of the Arts. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Mark Doty

Mark Doty

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award.

by this poet

poem
Surface the action of the day,

a means of tracing the dynamic,
so that a jitter of blue's
sparked by little coals, 

sun a glimmer 
of the day's intent. He knows
to trace an alphabet written on water 

is to surface the action of the day,

a way of proceeding,
entering into the never-
to-be repeated,
 
a way of
poem
You weren't well or really ill yet either;
just a little tired, your handsomeness
tinged by grief or anticipation, which brought
to your face a thoughtful, deepening grace.

I didn't for a moment doubt you were dead.
I knew that to be true still, even in the dream.
You'd been out--at work maybe?--
having a good
poem
This salt-stain spot
marks the place where men
lay down their heads,
back to the bench,

and hoist nothing
that need be lifted
but some burden they've chosen
this time: more reps,

more weight, the upward shove
of it leaving, collectively,
this sign of where we've been:
shroud-stain, negative

flashed onto the