cover image Deep Lane: Poems

Deep Lane: Poems

Mark Doty. Norton, $25.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-393-07023-1

Doty (Sweet Machine), whose Fire to Fire won the 2008 National Book Award, will sate his many admirers with this eighth collection. Having gained renown for his self-consciously beautiful, heart-on-sleeve elegies about the devastations of HIV/AIDS, Doty remains elegiac and continues to attend to beauty. He also does some of his best work yet as a nature poet. Wayward mammals, urban saplings, beaches, forests, and yards (as in the eight poems all titled “Deep Lane”) stand for the omnipresence of mortality, and the persistence of wild desire: a “Little Mammoth,” “milk-tusks not even/ sprouted,” drowns in a prehistoric clay pit; “the striped snake in the garden loves me/ so fiercely she never comes near.” The people in the poems—a needle-drug addict, a survivor of a suicide attempt—make frightening choices, though such choices seem natural to them. We are animals too, says Doty, but we inscribe our choices in language—such as the choice to greet the day, or to look backward on friends and lovers and previous poems. The longest (perhaps the best) work connects a shuttered barbershop on 18th Street in Manhattan to the other losses in Doty’s memory: “I have not forgotten one of you,” he prays, “may I never forget one of you—these layers of men,/ arrayed in the dark in their no-longer breathing ranks.” [em](Apr.) [/em]