Lyrical poet and all-around nice guy Mark Doty won the National Book Award for Poetry for his book of New and Collected Poems, Fire to Fire. The award was presented last night at a black-tie dinner in New York.
I say “nice guy” without guile because, in the several times that I’ve met Doty, he has been one of the most gracious and unassuming major writers I’ve met. I happened upon his poems more than a dozen years ago, when he was giving a small poetry reading at a Newbury Street art gallery. I was just beginning to take myself seriously as a writer then, and the epic scale of his work and its unapologetically gay content made an impression. Now, I often teach his poem “At the Gym”, from Source, as an example of the way that an everyday act like benchpressing can be layered with poetic meaning.
Whenever I hear Mark Doty’s name, I’m also saddened by the fact that Doty could have been a part of the English deparment faculty at B.C. Our loss.
Doty is a stunning poet, and, as he mentions in interviews, the National Book Award is especially sweet because it honors a collection of his life’s work.