As the chaos of semester’s end grips at least one institution of higher education, I took some solace in the fact that even talented people sometimes err as instructors. Here is Mark Doty making public a humbling moment that started off his semester:
Later in the day I showed up for my poetry workshop and began to teach a class while the students looked at me with rather bewildered expressions, a collective skepticism I didn’t understand until their professor walked in.
After a hiatus from his blog, Mr. Doty is back, allowing you to indulge in a post-holiday treat.
Posted in Language
Tagged Mark Doty
About Cave of Forgotten Dreams:
It’s too bad the movie isn’t better. It feels like Herzog never figured out quite what to do with these images, besides point the camera at them and let us marvel along with him. That’s sufficient for a while, but the nature of film is motion, and the nature of ekphrasis is transformation. It’s never enough for one work of art to simply present another; what we require from poetry or lyric prose or film based in a work of art is a kind of active engagement which places that work in a new context, gets inside it, turns it inside out, somehow involves us in the process of knowing. We want to be involved with someone else’s coming to terms; we want the work of art about the work of art to do something we couldn’t do by ourselves.
This is not breaking news, but since I did not know it until this week, it was news for me. Mark Doty has been participating in a lively discussion about poetry over at Slate. That is cheering.
What causes chagrin on this topic is that Texas is losing Mr. Doty. If you follow his blog (see the links section of this site), Mr. Doty charts his move eastward and northward. For those of you who are his new neighbors, we Texans expect you to treat Mr. Doty well.
After Mark Doty won the National Book Award, I went off to the local used bookstore to see what might be available, and there I found a memoir entitled Firebird. I started reading, and the first item had to do with a trip MD made to England, a trip during which he would find out whether he won a poetry prize. MD explains what the anticipatory atmosphere was like for him:
I am behaving as though I am a calm and more-or-less balanced adult, but in fact I’m reduced to something distinctly adolescent by the whole thing. Of course I’d like to win the prize, but can’t quite let myself imagine that; I don’t like to imagine the alternative either. Both options make my self-doubt flare, since to win would seem the strangest of flukes, an honor I couldn’t possibly merit, and to lose would confirm my own restless doubts. This is the terrible dilemma of prizes: we cannot believe we deserve them, and we cannot quite believe we don’t.
That pronoun shift from the “I” to “we” does not bother me as it might in another circumstance. That bit of universalization sounds as if it could withstand a Kantian analysis.
Posted in Books
Tagged Mark Doty
It must have been 2000 or 2001 when Cathal O’Searcaigh visited Georgia Southern University’s Center for Irish Studies, and I heard him recommend Mark Doty’s book Heaven’s Coast (1996). When an Irish writer tells an audience that another writer has a way with language, the audience ought to take note, and I did. If John Muir suggested to me that I visit a certain forest, then, if possible, I would start walking toward that forest. After attending to the recommendation, I purchased a paperback copy of Doty’s memoir, and began to appreciate what O’Searcaigh was pointing to in Doty’s work. Here is a brief excerpt from the memoir that might convey an achievement in tone that marks few writers:
Then there’s the notion of the seals as merman, of the creature which embodies the two worlds, unlike us, who live firmly in one medium, despite our brief visits to the other. To be of the coast, a mer-being, is to partake of the liminal, that watery zone of possibility where one thing becomes another, where the rules of one world are suspended as we enter into the next. The coast is the shifting zone of change and transformation. A coast is not a line really but a borderland, site of continual conversation between elements which transforms both.
Now I will read Fire to Fire, and I anticipate other people, not just proud Texans, will pick up Doty’s works, and find themselves transformed by the language.