Mark Doty Mark Doty > Quotes


Mark Doty quotes (showing 1-30 of 44)

“Love, I think, is a gateway to the world, not an escape from it.”
Mark Doty
“And then we ease him out of that worn-out body with a kiss, and he's gone like a whisper, the easiest breath.”
Mark Doty
“Intimacy, says the phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, is the highest value. I resist this statement at first. What about artistic achievement, or moral courage, or heroism, or altruistic acts, or work in the cause of social change? What about wealth or accomplishment? And yet something about it rings true, finally—that what we want is to be brought into relationship, to be inside, within. Perhaps it’s true that nothing matters more to us than that.”
Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
“What did you think, that joy / was some slight thing?”
Mark Doty
“Here and gone. That’s what it is to be human, I think—to be both someone and no one at once, to hold a particular identity in the world (our names, our place of origins, our family and affectional ties) and to feel that solid set of ties also capable of dissolution, slipping away, as we become moments of attention.”
Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
“I want what everybody wants,
that's how I know I'm still

breathing...”
Mark Doty, Sweet Machine
“The physical reinvention of the world is endless, relentless, fascinating, exhaustive; nothing that seems solid is. If you could stand at just a little distance in time, how fluid and shape-shifting physical reality would be, everything hurrying into some other form, even concrete, even stone.”
Mark Doty
“Because the golden egg gleamed
in my basket once, though my childhood
became an immense sheet of darkening water
I was Noah, and I was his ark,
and there were two of every animal inside me”
Mark Doty
“...in the face of all dangers, in what may seem a godless region, we move forward through the agencies of love and art.”
Mark Doty, Dog Years
“It's freeing, to think that there's always an aspect of us outside the grasp of speech, the common stuff of language.”
Mark Doty, Dog Years
“And something else, of course; there’s always more, deep in art’s pockets, far down in the chiaroscuro on which these foodstuffs rest: everything here has been transformed into feeling, as if by looking very hard at an object it suddenly comes that much closer to some realm where it isn’t a thing at all but something just on the edge of dissolving. Into what? Tears, gladness—you’ve felt like this before, haven’t you? Taken far inside.”
Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
tags: art
“Because this painting has never been restored there is a heightened poignance to it somehow; it doesn’t have the feeling of unassailable permanence that paintings in museums do.

There is a small crack in the lower left, and a little of the priming between the wooden panel and the oil emulsions of paint has been bared. A bit of abrasion shows, at the rim of a bowl of berries, evidence of time’s power even over this—which, paradoxically, only seems to increase its poetry, its deep resonance. If you could see the notes of a cello, when the bow draws slowly and deeply across its strings, and those resonant reverberations which of all instruments’ are nearest to the sound of the human voice emerge—no, the wrong verb, they seem to come into being all at once, to surround us, suddenly, with presence—if that were made visible, that would be the poetry of Osias Beert.

But the still life resides in absolute silence.

Portraits often seem pregnant with speech, or as if their subjects have just finished saying something, or will soon speak the thoughts that inform their faces, the thoughts we’re invited to read. Landscapes are full of presences, visible or unseen; soon nymphs or a stag or a band of hikers will make themselves heard.

But no word will ever be spoken here, among the flowers and snails, the solid and dependable apples, this heap of rumpled books, this pewter plate on which a few opened oysters lie, giving up their silver.

These are resolutely still, immutable, poised for a forward movement that will never occur. The brink upon which still life rests is the brink of time, the edge of something about to happen. Everything that we know crosses this lip, over and over, like water over the edge of a fall, as what might happen does, as any of the endless variations of what might come true does so, and things fall into being, tumble through the progression of existing in time.

Painting creates silence. You could examine the objects themselves, the actors in a Dutch still life—this knobbed beaker, this pewter salver, this knife—and, lovely as all antique utilitarian objects are, they are not, would not be, poised on the edge these same things inhabit when they are represented.

These things exist—if indeed they are still around at all—in time. It is the act of painting them that makes them perennially poised, an emergent truth about to be articulated, a word waiting to be spoken. Single word that has been forming all these years in the light on the knife’s pearl handle, in the drops of moisture on nearly translucent grapes: At the end of time, will that word be said?”
Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
“Into the paradise of euphony, the good poet must introduce hell. Broken paradises are the only kind worth reading.”
Mark Doty
“This is what history is: all those centuries of bodies, moving over these canals, twisting and blooming into life in these houses, these streets; all that flesh hungering, coming together, separating, continuing, accumulating, relinquishing, aging and breaking down. Bodies as tulips bent to the demands of light, colored into blossom, spent.”
Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
“…I have fallen in love with a painting. Though that phrase doesn’t seem to suffice, not really—rather’s it that I have been drawn into the orbit of a painting, have allowed myself to be pulled into its sphere by casual attraction deepening to something more compelling. I have felt the energy and life of the painting’s will; I have been held there, instructed. And the overall effect, the result of looking and looking into it’s brimming surface as long as I could look, is love, by which I mean a sense of tenderness toward experience, of being held within an intimacy with the things of the world.”
Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
“There are those fortunate hours when the world consents to be made into a poem.”
Mark Doty
“No such thing, the queen said, as too many sequins.”
Mark Doty
“All my life I've lived with a future which constantly diminishes but never vanishes.”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“And, I think, this greening does thaw at the edges, at least, of my own cold season. Joy sneaks in: listening to music, riding my bicycle, I catch myself feeling, in a way that’s as old as I am but suddenly seems unfamiliar, light. I have felt so heavy for so long. At first I felt odd- as if I shouldn’t be feeling this lightness, that familiar little catch of pleasure in the heart which is inexplicable, though a lovely passage of notes or the splendidly turned petal of a tulip has triggered it. It’s my buoyancy, part of what keeps me alive: happy, suddenly with the concomitant experience of a sonata and the motion of the shadows of leaves. I have the desire to be filled with sunlight, to soak my skin in as much of it as I can drink up, after the long interior darkness of this past season, the indoor vigil, in this harshest and darkest of winters, outside and in.”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“And now, a heap of roses
beside the sea, white rugosa
beside the foaming hem of shore:
brave,

waxen candles…
And we talk
as if death were a line to be crossed.
Look at them, the white roses.
Tell me where they end.”
Mark Doty, Atlantis
“Though there's something more

tender, beneath our vanity,
our will to become objects
of desire: we sweat the mark
of our presence onto the cloth.”
Mark Doty, Source
“under the radiant towers, the floodlit ramparts,
must have wondered at my impulse to touch her,
which was like touching myself,

the way your own hand feels when you hold it
because you want to feel contained.”
Mark Doty, My Alexandria
“Doesn’t rain make a memory more intimate?”
Mark Doty, Sweet Machine
“Even sad stories are company. And perhaps that's why you might read such a chronicle, to look into a companionable darkness that isn't yours.”
Mark Doty, Firebird
“In the museums we used to visit on family vacations when I was a kid, I used to love those rooms which displayed collections of minerals in a kind of closet or chamber which would, at the push of a button, darken. Then ultraviolet lights would begin to glow and the minerals would seem to come alive, new colors, new possibilities, and architectures revealed. Plain stones became fantastic, “futuristic…” Of course there wasn’t any black light in the center of the earth, in the caves where they were quarried; how strange that these stones should have to be brought here, bathed with this unnatural light in order for their transcendent characters to emerge. Irradiation revealed a secret aspect of the world.
Imagine illness as this light; demanding, torturous, punitive, it nonetheless reveals more of what things are. A certain glow of being appears. I think this is what is meant when we speculate that death is what makes love possible.”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“Desire I think has less to do with possession than with participation, the will to involve oneself in the body of the world, in the principle of things expressing itself in splendid specificity, a handful of images: a lover’s irreplaceable body, the roil and shimmer of the sea overshot with sunlight, a handful of cherries, the texture and weight of a word. The word that seems most apt is partake… We can say we partake of something but we may just as accurately say we take part in something’ we are implicated in another being, which is always the beginning of wisdom, isn’t it- that involvement which enlarges us, which engages the heart, which takes out of the routine limitations of self?”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“After he died, there was a deep calm to his face; he seemed a kind of unfathomable, still well which opened on and down beneath the suddenly smooth surface of his skin…The heat in him lasted a long time. I loved that heat. I don’t know how long I held his face and his shoulders and stroked him; as he began to cool I kept my hands on his belly, where the last of his warmth seemed to pool and concentrate. Here the fire of the body came to rest, smoldering longest, down to the last embers.”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“Being in grief, it turns out, is not unlike being in love.
In both states, the imagination's entirely occupied with one person. The beloved dwells at the heart of the world, and becomes a Rome: the roads of feeling all lead to him, all proceed from him. Everything that touches us seems to relate back to that center: there is no other emotional life, no place outside the universe of feeling centered on its pivotal figure.”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“The state of mind above which my distraction floats like fog is suddenly perfectly clear, though the right word for it is less immediately available. Grief is too sharp and immediate; maybe it’s the high pitch of the vowel sound, or the monosyllabic impact of the word, as quick a jab as knife or cut.
Sadness is too ephemeral, somehow; it sounds like something that comes and goes, a response to an immediate cause which will pass in a little while as another cause arises to generate a different feeling.
Mourning isn’t bad, but there’s something a little archaic about it. I think of widows keening, striking themselves- dark-swathed years, a closeting of self away from the world, turned inward toward an interior dark.
Sorrow feels right , for now. Sorrow seems large and inhabitable, an interior season whose vaulted sky’s a suitable match for the gray and white tumult arched over these headlands. A sorrow is not to be gotten over or moved through in quite the way that sadness is, yet sorrow is also not as frozen and monochromatic as mourning. Sadness exists inside my sorrow, but it’s not as large as sorrow’s realm. This sorrow is capacious; there’s room inside it for the everyday, for going about the workaday stuff of life. And for loveliness, for whatever we’re to be given by the daily walk.”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir
“I don’t know anything different about death than I ever have, but I feel differently. I inhabit this difference in feeling- or does it live in me?- at the same time as I’m sorrowing. The possibility of consolation, of joy even, does not dispel the sorrow. Sorrow is the cathedral, the immense architecture; in its interior there’s room for almost everything; for desire, for flashes of happiness, for making plans for the future…”
Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir

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