Saturday, April 4, 2015

Here's a terrific review of DEEP LANE,  written by Doni M. Wilson and just out
from the Houston Chronicle. I recommend a look at the Chronicle's posting of it, 
just for a look at the apt (and entertaining) photo of a mole that accompanies the 
review, illustrating a line that's quoted in the review's first paragraph.
"Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle 
Award, offers a new collection of poems called "Deep Lane," in which he examines 
the nature of descent. In (the shared title of several poems in the collection — all dif-
ferent experiences of the same street), the Rutgers University professor and former 
University of Houston professorthinks about "Down there, the little star-nosed engine 
of desire/at work all night, secretive," where experience carves its indelible marks, 
but cannot be repeated: "Don't you wish the road of excess/led to the palace of 
wisdom, wouldn't that be nice?" As in most of Doty's poems, that road might not 
lead to wisdom, but it does lead to something: knowledge, experience, the images 
or memories you cannot forget.
The opening poem begins "When I am down on my knees," and that is not a bad place necessarily, because that is where the literal and metaphorical task of "digging" begins: "all day we go digging, /harrowing, rooting deep"—with "deep" being the key word in this, and all of these poems. More than homage to Seamus Heaney and his well-known strains of digging,
Doty reminds us of the profundity of the every day, "the wild unsayable" 
that comes when we take plunges. He says, "Beauty's the least of it," 
but we still know it is a big part of it, the lyricism of the poems 
providing proof. Once you dig hard enough, whether through "study," 
"prayer," or hard times, Doty suggests when you hit the hard bottom ("the anvil"), 
then "maybe you're already changed." We believe him.
As Doty watches his dog go on a tear, he is reminded of the reality of death, the 
ever-presentdanger of dangers that punctuates our days. But even in the midst of 
seeing"where the backhoe will dig a new grave" — someday — Doty reminds us, 
like Wallace Stevens, that "death is the mother of beauty," and of living life even 
when defying the conventions that constrain it. He sees his dog "in his wild figure 
eights," and says, "You run, darling, you tear up that hill." We see his point: better 
now than never.

For Doty, nature is our teacher and sometimes the lessons are dark. Yet Doty can be
\ funny: he questions nature, how it is created "implacable, without boundary, pure 
appetite." The poet says, "I wouldn't know anything about that." But we don't believe 

This collection will win awards. The best pieces are about what Doty calls "the what-
I-lack-speech-for" (he doesn't), what he calls in "Crystal" the notion of "con-
sequentiality" (it exists),and the "hanging, and caught within that/want without fulfill-
ment or satisfaction" (we've all been there). If you travel down "Deep Lane" with 
Doty, you will know what it is "To be ravenous, and lack a mouth" — and there is 
no way to forget that.

No comments: