The darkly graceful poems in Mark Doty's seventh collection explore the ways in which we are educated by the implacable powers of time and desire. The world constantly renews itself, and the new brings both possibility and erasure. Given the limits of our own bodies, how are we to live within the inevitability of despair?
This is the plainest of Doty's books, its language stripped and humbled. But whatever depths are sounded in these poems, their humane and open music sustains. Art itself instructs us. Lucian Freud's startling renditions of human skin, Virginia Woolf's ecstatic depiction of consciousness, Caravaggio's only-too-real people elevated to difficult glory -- all turn the light of human intelligence upon "the night of time."
Formally inventive, warm, at once witty and disconsolate, School of the Arts represents a poet reinventing his own voice at midlife, finding a way through a troubled passage. Acutely attentive, insistently alive, this is a book of "fierce vulnerability."
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March 16, 2005
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