Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Work of Accepting Good Fortune

Every now and then I say to Paul, "I won the National Book Award," and he nods or says yes, understanding why I need to do this. I'm working on making this real. How can it be the case, how does one admit such news?

I have a fair amount of critical distance from awards, having been on both sides of the process and understanding how peculiar the whole thing can be, and how many factors come into play. Fifteen years ago, when Gore Vidal won for nonfiction, he sent a message from Rome saying, in effect, "Awards are always wrong. You've already chosen the wrong poet and the wrong novelist, and now you've chosen the wrong nonfiction writer." Readers of poetry are a stubbornly independent lot, I am happy to say, and don't care what anyone says they ought to read. They make their own way. Poetry is made for the long haul and what's honored this year isn't necessarily what will stick around.

All that said, I just couldn't be happier about winning. It feels different from the inside; the honor has a deep kind of glow about it. It lends both validation and a funny sense of permission - something along the lines of license to play, to chance.

I don't like the fact that my winning means my lovely brilliant fellow makers don't. Richard, Frank, Patricia and Reg are extraordinary. We all know there's no real way to judge between us; you can't take such individual, potent achievements and say this one is "best." It's just built into the structure of the prize.

And I'm still happy. And feel like I haven't woken up yet somehow. Which is why I will send interested readers to Paul's blog for the kind of good details that might give the texture of the night. I've just been made too, umm, hydrogenated somehow to write it. But he's done a great job with just the right fizzy, dramatic, pleasurable, kind of giddy feel.


sophie nicholls said...

Many, many congratulations, Mark! Enjoy!

Unknown said...

Congratulations to you, thrilled hardly covers it for you, I'll bet, but I'd warrant you're savouring that moment like mad :)))

Andrew Shields said...

Congratulations on the award.

And I think it's wonderful how you are enjoying having received the award! Why shouldn't one enjoy it?

Anonymous said...

You don't know me, but we met briefly when you visited Goddard this past summer (well, I think I shook your hand and thanked you for coming) (I'm a student/poet in the MFA program). I feel similarly about awards, knowing full well that there is no #1, least of all with poetry. But, maybe for a day at most, you are justified in reminding people: you won the National Book Award!

Robin said...

Congrats again! So exciting!

Andrew Shields said...

Is "Fire to Fire" the same as "Theories and Apparitions"? (Which I just got from the Poetry Book Society.)

Animal said...

It was a delight to open up the New York Times and realize you won. I love the poems you selected for the collection.

I remember you getting ready to go to the National Book Awards for My Alexandria: your new clothes, Wally in bed.It is great to know you got to go again and win.

love to you and Paul --

Mark Doty said...

Hi Andrew, Theories and Apparitions is the "New Poems" section of Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. It's a book on its own in the UK but not over here.

And Faith! How lovely to hear from you and to remember those old days --
fifteen years ago, and here I am getting a new tux again.

Anonymous said...

Let the celebrating continue. You, and poetry, deserve the attention, the applause. I have tried to help the cause in a small way by spreading the word on my blog, and have added your blog to the list of links. My students will also hear about your recent success. Alles gute,
Bruce Krajewski

TRAYB said...

Mark: What amazing news. Congrats! You definitely deserve this, so shout it from the rafters.

Michelle said...

"Poetry is made for the long haul ..."

I love this, Mark.