- Series: Art of...
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Graywolf Press (July 20, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555975631
- ISBN-13: 978-1555975630
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Art of Description: World into Word
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About the Author
MARK DOTY is the author of eight collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. He teaches at Rutgers University and lives in New York.
Top customer reviews
Doty also points to a critical problem with so much current poetry:
"Startling, to go description-hunting and realize that I can thumb through whole books of recent poems with very little evocation of sense perception within them. Why is this the case? I declare myself here on the side of allegiance to the sensible, things as they are, the given, the incompletely knowable, never to get done or get it right or render it whole: ours to say and say. The mightiest of our resources brought to the task, to make the world real."
There is a loss of faith in the ability of language to be more than solipsistic, and a concomitant loss in the craft of making things sensible in both definitions of the word:
"Now everybody in creation mistrusts language, and half the poems we read make a nod toward the unsayable. What’s to be done? Language won’t do what we wish it would, but we have nothing else—so we have to go forward and behave as if it could do what we wanted (with some faith in the miraculous fact that it does, from time to time, give us a “Song of Myself” or a Tender Buttons, something the world wouldn’t be the same without).
"Perhaps we can inhabit the interesting middle ground that lies between, on the one side, giving up on referentiality altogether, and, on the other, cleaving to an outdated notion that words can be controlled, can say what we mean to say when we wish to make use of them."
This a book for lovers of beautiful words and the desperate craft of believing that their distillation in unexpected liquors still makes life more alive.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
If you want a bunch of convoluted bs then buy it