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Recorded at the Chancellors' Reading, Poets Forum 2015. NYU Skirball Center. New York City.

About this poet

Mark Doty was born on August 10, 1953. He is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently Deep Lane (W. W. Norton, 2015); 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 served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

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)

In Two Seconds

Tamir Rice, 2002–2014

                          the boy’s face 
climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel  

of its becoming,  a charcoal sunflower 
swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see,  

or ears to hear? If you could see 
what happens fastest, unmaking 

the human irreplaceable, a star 
falling into complete gravitational  

darkness from all points of itself, all this: 

the held loved body into which entered 
milk and music,  honeying the cells of him: 

who sang to him, stroked the nap 
of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot 

after the cord completed its work 
of fueling into him the long history  

of those whose suffering
was made more bearable  

by the as-yet-unknown of him,

playing alone in some unthinkable 
future city, a Cleveland,  

whatever that might be. 
Two seconds. To elapse: 

the arc of joy in the conception bed,
the labor of hands repeated until  

the hands no longer required attention,
so that as the woman folded  

her hopes for him sank into the fabric 
of his shirts and underpants. Down 

they go, swirling down into the maw 
of a greater dark. Treasure box, 

comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,
why even begin to enumerate them

when behind every tributary 
poured into him comes rushing backward 

all he hasn’t been yet. Everything 
that boy could have thought or made,  

sung or theorized, built on the quavering 
but continuous structure 

that had preceded him sank into 
an absence in the shape of a boy 

playing with a plastic gun in a city park 
in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon. 

 When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time 
it took him to die. I mean the lapse between

the instant the cruiser braked to a halt 
on the grass, between that moment 

and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.
The two seconds taken to assess the situation.  

I believe it is part of the work 
of poetry to try on at least
the moment and skin of another,  

for this hour I respectfully decline. 

I refuse it. May that officer 
be visited every night of his life
by an enormity collapsing in front of him 

into an incomprehensible bloom,
and the voice that howls out of it.

 If this is no poem then… 

But that voice—erased boy, 
beloved of time, who did nothing 
to no one and became  

nothing because of it—I know that voice 
is one of the things we call poetry.
It isn’t only to his killer he’s speaking.

"In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice, 2002-2014" previously appeared in the May-June 2015 issue of American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author. 

"In Two Seconds: Tamir Rice, 2002-2014" previously appeared in the May-June 2015 issue of American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Doty. Used with permission of the author. 

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. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

by this poet

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

 

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2
poem

Late August morning I go out to cut
spent and faded hydrangeas—washed
greens, russets, troubled little auras

of sky as if these were the very silks
of Versailles, mottled by rain and ruin
then half-restored, after all this time…

When I come back with my handful
I