The Art of Description: World into Word
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2011
This is a thought-provoking little book -- ostensibly an essay about the art of writing, but also about reading, thinking, living. A total delight!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2011
Seldom has a writer been as thoughtful and incisive in his literary comments about poetry. Mark Doty's references are useful and broad.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2014
Every page offered up something worthwhile. It is more than a book on writing--it is a book on how to observe the world around us. I have not read any of his poetry but plan to now! I recommend this highly to all writers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2014
Mark Doty spends an entire book just examining, yes, description, and it's actually a great read. More often than not, these "writing about writing" books can be long and dull, however Doty's book is short, too the point and holds your attention. This is even more impressive coming from me given the fact that the book is written mainly for poets, and personally, I don't much enjoy writing poetry. Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book and found much of the information valuable for my prose writing as well. While he does examine a number of poems, most of which I hadn't heard of before, instead of droning on in his analysis actually practices what he preaches, turning what is usually humdrum examinations into something beautiful. Many of the things he said I sometimes found more profound and beautiful than the actually poem he was focusing on. Doty also is brave enough to share some personal anecdotes, which are often enjoyable for us readers to break up the constant analysis. In general this was an interesting and beautiful read, Doty manages to hold this picky anti-poetry readers attention for the compact but dense duration of this book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2013
Something luminescent produces its own light, glows from within. In such creatures as deep sea fishes it involves a complex chemical reaction between an enzyme called luciferase, oxygen, and organic molecules. Here it is produced by the examples chosen by Mark Doty, his own poetic talents, and especially the always evident joy and astonishment of discovery that infects Doty as he deals with the material.

The examples used are of enormous scope and variety, representing, at times, different substances within poetry. Thus we have Shelley and EE Cummings, Hayden Carruth and (briefly) Hart Crane, William Blake and Elizabeth Bishop. There are examples from Barnwell, Swenson, Galvin, Hopkins, Pound, Hull, Morling, and Wislawa Szymborska, and many more besides. Each one is a variant, a slight dappling of the patterns of description of the interior self, of polarities existing simultaneously, and/or of pieces of the unknowable found with close examinations of the world, within attempts to put those examinations into words.

This book is a small masterpiece, full of nuance and subtlety. It is readable again and again for those nuances, for the interior brightness of its own writing, but, in the largest portion, for the palpable sense of sharing a deep joy that Doty brings to his task. It is a book to love, to dog ear, to spill coffee on; in short, to live with.

Do not be dissuaded by others who question interpretations or found the writing dense. If you read and/or write any kind of poetry, this work of Mark Doty's will return full (and then some, I suspect) value from whatever effort you bring to it. I bought three of these "Art of" books together (Line and Syntax also) and while I liked the others, I loved this luminescent little volume. Most highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2014
“It sounds like a simple thing say what you see.” Mark Doty expertly moves readers well beyond simplicity as he deconstructs poems line by line sometimes letter by letter, sound by sound to reconstruct meaning that is exquisitely multi-layered exposing the seen and said beauty described by poetry. This is simply a must read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2013
Written from a poet's perspective the book provides enlightening insights into crafting artful description for any writer. The author's metaphors and allegories of human thought evoked while reading artful description are particularly revealing. A worthwhile purchase for any writer from poet to lawyer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2014
If Doty’s ‘The Art of Description’ should be titled anything else, it’d be ‘How to Read Poetry (or most other things for that matter) - 101’. While the text is a dense one, Doty’s attention to detail (and description) goes unparalleled in encompassing the ‘how to annotate’ or ‘how to do a close read’ varying forms of poetry. This is a book that needs to be read more than once to fully grab hold of the many, many, many effects Doty discusses in regards to ‘detailed’ knowledge. Though he dissects poetry throughout the work, the nuances associated with description comprehension outreach far beyond poems. His teachings roll over into fiction, non-fiction, and other variant forms of writing, as the necessary tools in grasping the ‘art of description’ should not solely be promised to poets – but to all writers in all forums. In examining Doty’s readings, we are invited into his mind and carefully guided through the skillful task of truly understanding what it is that we are reading.
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on February 4, 2015
I wanted The Art of Description yes, this is that. But, Mark's point of reference is always (almost always) Poetry, nice but not what i was looking for. I wanted the Art of Description as Dashiell Hammett did it, describing in prose how a room looked what that copper looked like and how Spade looked after the Lt. punched him in the jaw. I want to be able to do that and did not get that from Mr. Doty.
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on November 29, 2014
lovely guide to the power of imagery, movement, and description in poetry. highly practical and accessible. recommended for teachers perhaps teaching an intro college poetry course or creative writing class but i read it as a grad student and found it extremely useful, instructive, etc. go for it.
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