A courageous and emotionally powerful collection, “Fire to Fire” exhibits Mark Doty’s poetical range and aesthetic. He speaks with clarity of language and image, is not afraid to allow the natural world to speak for him, and faces death and life after the deaths of so many close to him with honesty and impossible hope:
“All smolder and oxblood, these flowerheads, flames of August: fierce bronze, or murky rose, petals concluded in gold— And as if fire called its double down the paired goldfinches come swerving quick on the branching towers, so the blooms sway with the heft of hungers indistinguishable, now, from the blossoms.”
“Sometimes we wake not knowing how we came to lie here, or who has crowned us with these temporary, precious stones.”
He reveals the survivor’s wonder and guilt when he survives when so many friends and a lover die in the great AIDS crisis:
“And why did a god so invested in permanence choose so fragile a medium, the last material he might expect to last?”
Doty is not afraid to come close to the sentimental when talking about Beau and Arden, his dogs, as they age through their briefer lives and die before he was ready.
Every poems is crafted for this world. And while Doty acknowledges the great rift created by the 1970s Postmodern experimentation and loss of faith in language, he believes in the power of words well-chosen to carry us through our individual and collective search for meaning: He knows the surprise that comes when the poem reaches beyond what the poet thought he wanted:
“The poem wants the impossible; the poem wants a name for the kind nothing at the core of time,”
Read this collection. You will be heartbroken at times, but that is our lot. And Doty is a great voice and his gentle but courageous presence is welcome on this journey.