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This review is taken from PN Review 227, Volume 42 Number 3, January - February 2016.

Cover of Deep LaneCover of physical
Gregory WoodsIsn’t it Grammar? MARK DOTY
Deep Lane (Cape, £10.00)







ANDREW MCMILLAN
physical (Cape, £10.00)

Mark Doty’s ninth collection locates itself in and around his cottage on Long Island. He is enough of an autobiographical poet for each collection to seem a new chapter in a continuing narrative. His is a refined existence, told with a careful display of refinement: even an injection of crystal meth demands an anemone. That said, he has emerged from a middle period when everything in the world appeared to be in drag, mesmerising in its tawdry glamour, flamboyant and glittering. It was an interesting trope, but seemed to have taken over his senses at the expense of shading.

He is now a more sober poet, if no less submissive to wonders he persuasively takes for signs. An effusive lover of flora, he is even more in thrall to the fauna that wander into his purview. Here, as well as his dog Ned, he encounters fireflies, a mole, sea lions, a snake, a deer on Fire Island (something of a gay cultural cliché, this), as well as blood-sucking ticks and a heron that eats his fish. Not only does he observe these creatures, but at times he actively seeks to ingratiate himself with them. He wonders if he can legitimately call the deer his friend, and whether contact with the mouth of a goat amounts to a kiss.

A collected Doty, when it comes, will lack variety of form. This may be no bad thing, since he is a master of the rambling meditation, its long lines ultimately derived from Whitman, but a Whitman released from the obsessive-compulsive urge to ...


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