Mark Doty - Theories and Apparitions (4 stars)

Mark Doty - Theories and Apparitions

(Jonathan Cape)


Mark Doty’s talent has always been in bringing elegance to simple, normally very recognisable, snapshots from everyday life. The American poet starts out with a plain observation – some rude truck driver tearing up the NYC streets; his dog, Beau, wagging its tail; a bat leaving an ‘inky signature’ in the night sky – before using it as a springboard for exploring tender and profound truths, but in a very laidback way.

Doty’s eighth book is succinct and moving, mood-swinging gracefully through a 55-year-old’s frustrations, fears, grateful snatches of surprise or ‘unbridled joy’. Less grandiose or raw than previous books, where he dealt with the death of his partner or the aftermath of 9/11, the intensity of his grief and despair has been replaced by equally deeply-felt, only less tortured emotions, plus the occasional shoulder-shrug or eye-roll at the dilemmas life throws at him. Effortlessly done, condensing his soul-searching into neat and beautiful soundbites.

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