What’s Next?

I don’t have any kind of system for choosing what I read next, so I thought I’d open this up to the multitudes of regular readers here.  If you have an opinion, let me know.  If you don’t have an opinion, pick one at random.

Kay Ryan is the current National Poet Laureate, August Kleinzahler won the National Book Critics Circle Award this year, and the Philip Schultz book was the other book I was thinking of when I chose the Doty collection.

My Alexandria by Mark Doty

My Alexandria by Mark Doty

I chose My Alexandria because I wanted to read something by Mark Doty, who came to my attention when he won the National Book Award in poetry for his collection Fire to FireMy Alexandria was an award winning book in its own right (it won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993), and I found a copy that was available for free, so I decided to start there.  These are long poems, most go at least three pages, some significantly longer, and the book is divided into three sections.  I thought the final section was by far the strongest, nearly every poem in that section struck me in some way, and I found myself rereading that section a couple of times after I had finished.  There is an underlying feeling of doom in a lot of these poems, AIDS is a persistent theme (as is the related theme of death), and it makes for an intense experience at times.

From the final poem “Lament-Heaven”

if we are continuous,
rippling from nothing into being,
then why can’t we let ourselves go

into the world’s shimmering story?
Who can become lost in a narrative,
if all he can think of is the end?

Doty works with a deft enough touch that the theme of sickness and death doesn’t become a preoccupation, but rather a filter which informs a lot of the observations and poems in this collection.  I have seen this book classified as ‘queer lit.’ and perhaps that is because it dealt with AIDS at a time where that disease was considered synonymous with the gay community, but I didn’t find much that resonated with my perception of that classification.  Granted ‘queer lit.’ isn’t a genre I’ve explored much, so it is entirely possible that there is more to the book than I appreciated.

The poems in this collection were not particularly dense, with a couple of passes through each one I felt like I grasped the key metaphors and messages.  After reading this piece written by Doty on his poetry-writing process, it seems like that’s how he constructs his poems.  He teases out the metaphors from his experiences and tries to write them into his poems.  I think his poetry succeeds because of these keen observations and beautiful writing, not due to some ability to pack haystacks of meaning into a mere needle’s worth of words.

I really enjoyed this collection, it was dark and a bit morose at times, but the poetry was lyrical and beautiful, and I appreciated a great number of the compositions.  My particular favorites were “Human Figures” about private moments that become public; “No” which begins with children and a turtle, but turns into an almost theological query; and “Brilliance”, a poem that approaches death head on, but does it in such a beautiful way that you can’t help but be moved.

…he says I can’t have

anything I can’t finish.
He says it like he’s had enough
of the whole scintillant world,

though what he means is
he’ll never be satisfied and therefore
has established this discipline,

a kind of severe rehearsal.
That’s where they leave it,
him looking out the window,

her knitting as she does because
she needs to do something.
Later he leaves a message:

Yes to the bowl of goldfish.
Meaning:  let me go, if I have to,
in brilliance…


I have come to the realization that I don’t have any interest in writing the Series Previews anymore.  Part of it is the uninspiring Twins season so far this year, part of it is that they take a lot of time to put together, and part of it is that with the move and everything starting to come together here in Kansas (after three days, we found an appropriate coffee table!) I haven’t been terribly inspired to spend time on the same stuff for this site.  So there will be a bit of a shift in direction here whilst I figure out how the schedule is going to go in the new stage of my life.  Bear with me.

With some time off betwixt my triumphant completion of graduate school and the beginning of my postdoc appointment, I’ve actually had some time to do a fair amount of reading.  One of the books I finished was a collection of poems by Mark Doty, My Alexandria.

I’d been distracted from this one for a while, but in finishing it up last week, it re-awakened my interest in poetry.  Now, I am not a poet (occasionally I’ll knock out a verse or two for Mrs. Mak but I’m not sure that really counts), nor have I read any extensive amount of poetry.  In fact, I can count the poetry collections I’ve read on one hand.

E. E. Cummings – ViVa

Robert Hass – Praise

Mark Doty – My Alexandria

The Cummings book was bought on a whim during my college years at the bookstore – and yes, all the punctuation and capitalization makes it odd, which is kind of what initially appealed to me, the ideal of intellectual, borderline pretentious rebellion.  But what ended up sticking with me from that collection is the finishing lines in poem XIX:

… i mean the
Rain is no respecter of persons
the snow doesn’t give a soft white
damn Whom it touches

I don’t think it was any deep understanding which caused those words to catch my eye, I just liked the verse, lyrically.  Since then, I’ve tried to occasionally pick up some poems here and there.  So here’s my plan, in recognition of my scratching the poetry itch again, I’m going to declare this the First Occasional Official Daneeka’s Ghost Week Of Poetry (FOODGWOP).  My plans are as follows.

Mon – introduction (you’re reading it right now)

Tue – My thoughts on my most recent poetic adventure

Wed – A favorite poem -or- some discussion of relevant links/sites

Thur – What poetry will I read next?

Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick to that (at least partially)