This bold wide-ranging new collection -- Mark Doty's sixth book of poems -- demonstrates the unmistakable lyricism, fierce observation and force of feeling that have made his poetry significant to readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
The new poems in Source deepen Doty's exploration of the paradox of selfhood. Are we edgeless and unbounded, or locked within our own singularity? What is it to be one person in the world's great multiplicity of selves?
Source investigates matters of public life -- the degradation of Walt Whitman's vision of a democratic America, a child's display of longing on a New York sidewalk, Provincetown's restless summer crowds. But the poems also turn toward the realm of private struggle, how the self is claimed and lost through desire, how the dapple of light on a hotel windowsill makes a claim for the life of the soul.
Source is a complex, boldly colored selfportrait; its muscular lines argue fiercely with the fact of limit, and pulse with the drama of perception, the quest to forge meaning.
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Mark Doty's books of poetry and nonfiction prose have been honored with numerous distinctions, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, in the United Kingdom, the T. S. Eliot Prize. In 2008, he won the National Book Award for Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is a professor at the University of Houston, and he lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
Doty's sixth book of verse (the first since his memoir Firebird) continues his exploration of gay male desire and post-AIDS mourning amid vividly rendered scenes from Manhattan, Provincetown, rural Vermont and Latin America. Doty (Atlantis; My Alexandria) begins, this time, in the animal world, considering "just one bunny dead/ of mysterious causes." Soon enough, he returns to eros: "At the Gym" evokes "flesh/ which goads with desire,/ and terrifies with frailty." The well-sketched drag queen in "Lost in the Stars" is the latest of many in Doty's work, straining at "the limits of flesh" in her "black glittery leotard." Later poems fan out through history: one longish work, sure to be anthologized, acknowledges "Uncle" Walt Whitman, "our prophet, who enjoins us to follow... the body's liquid meshes" among "the men of the world in the men's house, nude." After a decade of critical and commercial success, Doty's evocations of gay male lovers and their community have lost none of their emotional force, though they may have begun to repeat motifs. His travel poems, on the other hand, can simply rework Elizabeth Bishop, to whom Doty tips his hat in a poem about one of her watercolors. Many readers will keep loving Doty's evocative style, which, as Doty says of his partner Paul's tattoo, is "warmly ironic, lightly shaded, and crowned,/ as if to mean feeling's queen or king of any day." (Dec.) Forecast: Doty won the NBCC Award for My Alexandria in 1993 and is the only American to have won the U.K. Poetry Book Society's T. S. Eliot Prize (in 1995 for the same title), among other accolades. If the subjects and techniques are familiar, they are no less urgent or resonant: expect brisk sales.
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