PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog
Next Issue Kei Miller Sometimes I Consider the Names of Places Kyoo Lee's A Close Up and Marjorie Perloff's response John McAuliffe City of Trees Don Share on Whitman's Bicentenary Jeffrey Wainwright and Jon Glover on Geoffrey Hill's Gnostic

This interview is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

In Conversation with Mark Doty
Finding Optimism in Elegy with Mark Doty
Mícheál McCann
A Conversation

Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Belfast, 28 November 2018


JOHN CAGE’S 4'33'' (four minutes and thirty-three seconds of prescribed silence) invites foot taps, rasping coughs and sounds outside the auditorium to be heard differently; this extraneous, incidental noise can then become something like music. Transformation, looking up, and beauty are traits of Mark Doty’s work I always return to. Do we uncover ‘[a]rtifacts of wreck?’ he asks in ‘Tunnel Music’ (Atlantis, 1995) or ghostly music? Doty demonstrates what it is to take personal history and personal memory, and defiantly inscribe grand joy and soaring loss.

I performed a poetry reading alongside Doty in Belfast in November 2018. After this we talked at length before and after about the community we feel in queer writing, how formative he was to my understanding of this community, and cultural disconnects and synergies between American and Irish queer life. Doty remarked on a line within a poem of mine (‘The nearest Gay™ is 7 kilometres away’) as being a call for community, for closeness. So many of Doty’s poems have this similar yearning. His poem ‘A Letter from the Coast’ ends with the blisteringly simple ‘I wish you were here’, which aptly epitomises much of the concerns of this subsequent conversation between Doty and I.

This interview asks questions of AIDS writing, American literary canon, elegy, the possibilities of joy, of optimism in queer writing particularly, all of which his mind grapples with aplomb. Of particular note is the immanent sublimity ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image