Praised by the New York Times for his “dazzling, tactile grasp of the world,” award-winning poet, Goddard alumnus (MFA ’80) and former faculty member Mark Doty read from his work in the Haybarn Theater on January 6, 2016. (Presented by Goddard’s MFA in Creative Writing Program’s Visiting Writers Series). The next morning, he spoke with Program Director Elena Georgiou on the radio.
“I have always been concerned with evanescence and with disappearance. I am a natural born elegist; I look at the world and I think about what’s vanishing. I think about what we love and how it moves away from us and how we move away from what we love. But I never thought so much about time as a process, time as… is it an entity? Is it an energy? Is it the nature of things simply to move forward in some way? What is that moving forward?”
Listen to the whole conversation here:
Mark Doty is the author of three memoirs: the New York Times-bestselling Dog Years (HarperCollins, 2007), Firebird (1999), and Heaven’s Coast (1997), as well as a book about craft and criticism, The Art of Description: World Into Word, part of the popular “Art of” series published by Graywolf Press. Throughout his writings, he shows special interest in the visual arts, as is evident in his poems and also in his book-length essay, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon (2001). He is currently at work on a memoir that centers on his poetic relationship with Walt Whitman, entitled What Is the Grass.
He is the author of nine books of poetry, most recently Deep Lane (W.W. Norton, 2015), a book of descents: into the earth beneath the garden, into the dark substrata of a life. But these poems seek repair, finally, through the possibilities that sustain the speaker above ground: art and ardor, animals and gardens, the pleasure of seeing, the world tuned by the word. Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems was published in 2008 and won the National Book Award for that year—in their citation, the National Book Award judges wrote, “Elegant, plain-spoken, and unflinching, Mark Doty’s poems in Fire to Fire gently invite us to share their ferocious compassion. With their praise for the world and their fierce accusation, their defiance and applause, they combine grief and glory in a music of crazy excelsis.”
Doty is the first American poet to have won Great Britain’s T. S. Eliot Prize, for My Alexandria (1993), which also received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other collections of poetry include: Turtle, Swan (1987); Atlantis (1995); Sweet Machine (1998); Source (2001); and the critically acclaimed volume, School of the Arts(HarperCollins, 2005).
Former US Poet Laureate Philip Levine remarked, “If it were mine to invent the poet to complete the century of William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, I would create Mark Doty just as he is, a maker of big, risky, fearless poems in which ordinary human experience becomes music.” And Mary Oliver said: “One of the things that has been constant about Mark Doty’s work, poetry and prose, is his intense search for the exact word or phrase, of whatever issue, which lead him (and us) into the very furnace of meaning within the human story.”
In addition to the National Book Award, Doty has also received two NEA fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize. As the award citation for the last of these noted, “Mark Doty’s poems extend the range of the American lyric.” In 2011 Doty was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.