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A poem by Mark Doty, which I have loved for a long time, has been used in a very ugly way. He's blogged about it here.

And, this morning, Mark posted a link to a fine post about the situation in the New Yorker blog, which included links to both the poem itself and to a gorgeous, illuminating essay by Mark about the writing of it.

All this has brought me back to his work (which wasn't hard, his amazing Fire to Fire: new and selected poems is one of those books that I keep sitting on the top of my filing cabinet behind me, so that I can easily reach it if I need to read poetry that will help wake up my language and clear my mind). I think that spending time with Mark's poetry is something that creates change in this chaotic world, or at least in the reader, in me. It's a good moment for that, for sure.

A while ago, I syndicated Mark's blog on lj, so if you'd like to read his posts on your friendslist, you can add it here.
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Mark Doty's amazing book, Fire To Fire, has won the National Book Award in Poetry. Novelist and memoirist Paul Lisicky, who is Mark's partner, has been writing wonderful posts about the event in his blog.


Jun. 30th, 2007 03:23 pm
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Last week, I put a pear and a long, red Jonathan Edwards commemorative pencil in my bag as I went to wait for the bus to Amherst for a reading. I didn't eat the pear, which, because of the heat, got so soft that I could peel it with a spoon. So I did and put the pear mush in the freezer, and, just now, put it in the blender with cinnamon and yogurt to make a frozen pear smoothie that I just drank the last swallow of from a tall glass. It was good.

  • Mark Doty read poems that are staying with me, including a fierce one about a guy deliberately almost running him over, and what it felt like to be carrying his anger and image of that around with him, it ends, I think, "When did I ever put anything down?" And another poem I really loved about a confrontation with the sublime -- the terrible, tempting danger of it -- climbing a wild, weird Gaudi temple and getting safely down again, belly to dirt, all the while sitting clapping in a room.

  • Paul Lisicky read very new work: short pieces filled with animals, woods and a kind of dangerous intensity and shifting sense of the real that reminded me of Rebecca Brown's The Dogs and Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch and The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits. They made my skin tingle up and down the inside of my arms, which only happens when the work is touching a deep vein in me.

  • Thomas Sayers Ellis was an amazing reader.

  • Grace Paley was looking a bit more frail than the last time I'd seen her, read a lot of poems, and said of a story she read, "I think there's another page, but, oh well." And that's really how it felt -- she had offered us plenty, for sure.

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There are some great readings at UMass this week at the Juniper Writing Institute.

Tonight, I'm going to see Mark Doty and Grace Paley, two writers whose work I love and whose very different presences as readers knock me out. My friend Chaia Heller, who has asked me to do fat liberation workshops as paid gigs way more than anyone else has over the years -- she asked me to do my first one, as a matter of fact and the most recent one, too -- once invited me to give a reading with Grace Paley at the Institute for Social Ecology, and it was utterly delicious, even if Grace did get mildly annoyed at the way I raved about her work before I started reading. I couldn't help it, though. I read her early short story collections when I was haunting the University of Colorado library in the early eighties, partly because I didn't get along with my dorm roommates and needed somewhere to be, and partly because I was looking for models of fiction writers and poets who were women, and those stories were funny, ardent, heartbreaking and political in ways that left me practically bruised with the desire to be able to write like that.

Mark Doty is a poet whose new books I always order as soon as they're published. He once gave a keynote at the OutWrite conference that left me crying in my seat with his evocation of the reasons to write and the things that poetry (counter to what WH Auden wrote) actually can do. I've just started his latest book, Dog Years, a memoir about his dogs Beau and Arden.

In response to a comment from a stranger, about facing the prospective death of his aging dog, he writes:

Just now death remains an interruption, leaves me furious, sorrowing, refusing to yield. Too easy an acceptance seems, frankly, sentimental, an erasure of the particular irreplaceable stuff of individuality with a vague, generalized truth. That's how sentimentality works, replacing particularity with a warm fog of acceptable feeling, the difficult exact stuff of individual character with the vagueness of convention. Sentimental assertions are always a form of detachment; they confront the acute, terrible awareness of individual pain, the sharp particularity of loss or the fierce individuality of passion with the dulling, "universal" certainty of platitude.

I'm also particularly excited about Paul Lisicky's reading coming up on Tuesday, when Thomas Sayers Ellis will read as well. Paul is a novelist and memoir writer --I especially loved his memoir, Famous Builder, very much.


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May 2009



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