"I was so filled with longing / --is that what sound is for?-- / I seemed to be nowhere at all," Mark Doty rhapsodizes while watching geese fly in "Migratory," another double vision in his award-winning fourth book, Atlantis
. Forming a moving elegy to the poet's lover, Wally, the individual tercets and couplets speak in a cautious but brave rhetoric combining the best of Frost and Bishop. The book removes its mourning clothes and goes downtown, full of rage, to sit in the steam baths of the edgy "Homo Will Not Inherit," in which the speaker says, "I'll tell you what I'll inherit: the margins." Indeed, Doty's speakers are most likely found in tidal, watery margins that indulge his double vision of land and sea interweaving like body and spirit. Atlantis begins merely as marshland uncovered at low tide:
Now the tide's begun
its clockwork turn, pouring,
in the day's hourglass
toward the other side of the world,
and our dependable marsh reappears
...And our ongoingness,
what there'll be of us? Look,
love, the lost world
rising from the waters again:
our continent, where it always was....
This austerity lapses into sentimentality only once, when Wally pets a dog. Yet even here, Doty delivers an aesthetic message, that the touch "isn't about grasping / ...so much will / must be summoned, / such attention brought / to the work--which is all / he is now, this gesture." It is as though Wally's death has released Doty from the uneasy assurances of earlier poems, causing him to rediscover how life exists in metaphor, and at one remove, the language of poetry. "Description is travel," he writes, and like Frost in "Birches," he travels along his metaphors, climbing until they bend and bring him back to a world changed by the experience. Atlantis
and his previous book, My Alexandria
, are valuable chronicles of sensibility and intelligence laid bare. -- Edward Skoog
From Publishers Weekly
Doty's fourth collection, coming after the 1993 National Book Critics' Circle award-winning My Alexandria, is anchored in the lush and pressing world of loss. He begins calmly with sensually descriptive poems that fully observe the complex brilliances of grasses of a salt marsh, of the shell of a crab or a row of mackerel. Loss and grief are introduced in a narrative poem, "Grosse Fugue," about a friend dying of AIDS. Grief intensifies and climaxes with the title poem, the book's centerpiece, a chronicle of his lover and other friends infected with AIDS, highlighting the related nightmares and desperations that become part of everyday life. Anger follows as settings shift from seaside to inner city; the speaker's spirit toughens. The stunning "Homo Will Not Inherit" explodes with pride, rage and shame over the longings of a gay man in an urban landscape. The concluding poems, returned to the natural world and heavy and ripe with the imagery of fall and winter, unearth a saving, harsh beauty in the movement of bodies through space and time toward death.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.