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Heaven's Coast: A Memoir

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  639 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The year is 1989 and Mark Doty's life has reached a state of enviable equilibrium. His reputation as a poet of formidable talent is growing, he enjoys his work as a college professor and, perhaps most importantly, he is deeply in love with his partner of many years, Wally Roberts. The harmonious existence these two men share is shattered, however, when they learn that Wall ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 31st 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published March 1st 1996)
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Justin
I just bought Mark Doty's latest collection of poems today, Fire to Fire . So far it's pretty great, most notably for its shimmering depictions of natural phenomena ranging from a bat flying in rural Britain to the ocean shores of Provincetown. Doty's gift for lyrical description is so impressive he'll actually startle me with his language, stringing words together to create beautiful, naturalistic illusions, like some kind of linguistic magician. This talent is also found in his prose works, a ...more
Patricia Murphy
I'm glad Doty wrote this but I'm sorry he lived it.

Harder even than Wally’s death, my life’s watershed, toward which all the time before it moved, and all the time after hurries away.

There are times I feel I’m translating, in my head, from one language to another; I’ve become a citizen of grief’s country, and now I find I don’t always easily speak the old tongue I used to know so well.

“Does a snowflake in an avalanche feel responsible?”

"And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luc
...more
April Guilmet
I read this book last winter, having a fondness for Doty's lyrical poetry and prose, and having thoroughly enjoyed "Dog Years."
I can say this is truly one of the most devastatingly sad stories I've ever read, one too close to home for anyone who has ever cared for a terminally ill loved one and watch them slowly fade away. Doty's longtime partner died of AIDS in the 1990s: his story is based on the couple's final years together and is, at times, difficult to read. Nothing is sugar-coated here, a
...more
Rj
All my life I've lived with a future, which constantly diminishes but never vanishes. 4.

Metaphor is a way of knowing the world, and no less a one than other sorts of ways of gaining knowledge. 25.

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. And for watching all those evidences of ongoing life crumble in the flash of remembering, in the recurring wave of fresh grief. 62
...more
Hendecam
Mark Doty's memoir, Heaven's Coast, is one of the most poetic books I've read in a long time. Ripe with vivid imagery, Doty's talent as a poet shines through in his prose.

In this book, Doty recounts the life and death of his lover Wally who succumbed to AIDS-related illness in the early 1990s. As Doty deals with this, he's also faced with the deaths of friends from AIDS and a very close friend who dies in a car accident. While all this sounds tragic, it's Doty's hopeful message that shines thro
...more
Cheryl
This was stunning, beautiful, speechlessly powerful, and the longest poem I have ever read.

A poet writing a prose memoir is bound to be poetical, but this was more than that, it was a poem on every page, every chapter, within, and for every breath.

There are many times I feel that the universe is tapped into my interior landscape and gives me what I need: rain in some cases, snow in others, a sunset, a moon rise, etc. And when I need it, I have always felt my spirit lift to meet it, and absorb i
...more
Nina
Doty's memoir shimmers with love, with joy, with pain, with grief. His prose is as rich and lyrical as his poetry. He invites us into his soul as he describes in unsparing detail his lover's journey through HIV. Doty honors his partner with every word; the love and respect is obvious, as well as the despair that results from knowing what is to come and being totally powerless to prevent it.
Christina
This is one of my absolute favorite books of all time! I read it in a theological studies seminar back in my undergrad days, and if you need any indication that LMU is more of a liberal Catholic school, you can consider that I was reading this beautiful book, about a gay man whose lover is dying of AIDS, as part of the course curriculum.
Christine Fay
When I first picked up this book, it was to be read during the school day. Due to its poetic nature, and beautiful language, I could not get to a place of concentration where I could enjoy it within the walls of my classroom. I needed a quiet and serene place to enjoy the journey through Mark’s life in Vermont and Provincetown, where his lover, Wally, succumbed peacefully to AIDS. The visit he got from the coyote on the beach reminded me of some of the messages I’ve received from my deceased gra ...more
Richard Jespers
Doty writes a memoir concerning the death of his lover, Wally Roberts, from complications due to AIDS. Unbelievably controlled prose, but unbridled emotion. I’ve never cried so freely while reading a book. Yet Doty is funny, as well:

“And I was cooking for three, and teaching, and taking care of a man who’d just collapsed in my house; learning to cook like June Cleaver didn’t exactly seem an option” (196-7).


Another passage that moved me deeply:

“Christmas Eve, I give him packages which I open fo
...more
Dee
"This is how I see through the wider end of the telescope, when my perspective's wide enough to see us as part of this vast interchange of being, not its center. On other days, the water of grief--deep, impenetrable, dark, cold--pours over everything and then I am lightless, unseeing." - p.9

"And there is somehow in the grand scale of dune and marsh and sea room for all of human longing, placed firmly in context by the larger world: small, our flames are, though to us raging, essential." - p. 18

"
...more
Cayr
Mark Doty is an award-winning poet and one of this generation's best writers. In his memoir "Heaven's Coast", Doty shares his experiences as his poetry career is just starting to take off and his lover is simultaneously diagnosed with AIDS. It's 1989 and little is known about AIDS, and effective treatment is non-existent. Doty and Wally discover together how to live when life seems so tenuous.

I won't kid you; this is a very sad book. It is written beautifully, honestly and with soul - but it's
...more
Samantha
This book destroyed me. It made me weep loudly and openly in public, warmed my heart, and inundated me with achingly beautiful language.
Holly
Exquisitely beautiful, compelling memoir and meditation on loss. So wise in its insights, so lyrical in its expression. Just read it.
Dallas Rising
Exquisitely written, this memoir about grief in its many forms. Most poetry isn't for me, but this poet's prose is.
Madeline
Broke my heart six times, beautiful writing style, source of unending inspiration. One of the best works I've read
Kevin Graves
This book helped me through the last stages of grief over losing my partner of 25 years. Though his circumstances weren't quite the same as mine, the grief stories were. I am captivate by both his prose and his poetry. He has a gift with words I have not quite seen before. This is a beautiful story of deep love and deep loss and how Doty was almost swallowed alive by his partner's death. Also the story of how he got through it. He was also grieving the loss of one of his best friends in the book ...more
Ana
A beautiful, wonderful book. It will stay with me for a long time. Mark Doty is a superb writer.
Ann
Mark Doty's account of the last 18 months or so of his life with his partner, Wally, who died of AIDS. For me, the first half of the book, more about the grieving process than Wally and his illness, was less gripping than the 2nd half when we see Doty watching Wally die, gracefully and with dignity. It is a very beautiful book, and I liked the concrete details of the support system that gathered (and that gathered for other HIV positive men) around Wally, and the stories of this community of fri ...more
Plainbrownwrapper
Apr 28, 2014 Plainbrownwrapper marked it as to-read
Shelves: i-don-t-have-it
Don't know if I can stand all the grief in this one, but it sounds beautiful.
Mj Harding
Doty's memoir which deals with the illness and death of his lover, Wally, from AIDS was more than memoir as it spoke not only on love and loss, but captured the essence of what it means to be a human who is engaged and aware of the greater world all around him. Loved this book!
Jordan Lombard
OMG... what can I say about this book? It's phenomenal. I can't say that enough. The emotion is ripe, the story is true, and I bawled my eyes out. It's so sad that bad things happen to good people. But that's life.

Mark Doty knows how to write, and write beautifully, even when he's writing about his own life when things weren't so great.

This is a very moving memoir and everyone should read it, whether it's their kind of book or not, just so you can get a feeling for what it means to LIVE and wha
...more
Ashley
Grief does not just come with losing the love of your life. The language in this incredible memoir relates to all people who have dealt with loss of any kind. The pearly gates open and you enter into the last years of Mark Doty recalling life with his partner, Wally who was diagnosed with and died from AIDS. The afterword is also worth the read and includes my favorite quote, which Doty wrote, “All my life I’ve lived with a future which constantly diminishes but never vanishes.” The appreciation ...more
Kristen
One gets the sense reading "Heaven’s Coast", that Doty turned into his sorrow forcefully after losing his partner Wally, abiding his anguish by bearing witness to his own grief, their courageous struggle together and the immeasurable devastation being wreaked by AIDS in gay communities. Divided into two parts, Heaven’s Coast is both a beautiful, evocative meditation on grieving and a provocative narrative account of love, struggle and loss during the AIDS epidemic.
Beth
Beautiful -- the best of the memoirs I've read about AIDS. But it goes far beyond that -- it's not about AIDS, really, but about grief and love and life in general. It's a finely-detailed, complicated, essential work of art.

(Edited to say the best "memoir", not "book" about AIDS. Rebecca Brown's The Gifts of the Body is completely different but just as beautiful and necessary.)
Dallas
I read this in college as part of an AIDS in Literature course. I still remember it as a poignant and poetic story. It was well written and I am glad I was "forced" to read it. I hope to be able to replace this in my library at some point. This book is good for anyone who likes memoirs or simply wants to have a glimpse into a portion of our world that most of us have no experience with.
Alyssa
Reading this memoir of death, written by a poet, felt like looking into a mirror of my own experiences of loss and grief. With acute transparency, Doty explores his experience as a caregiver, writer, lover, and survivor. "Isn't that part of what being with dying teaches us, different sorts of knowing?... Is that my work, to point to the world and say, see how darkly it sparkles?"
Howard Mansfield
What stands out about Doty’s memoir about the death of his partner Wally, besides his poet’s touch with metaphor and close observation, is his care for Wally, who dies at home surrounded by his friends, dogs, and a community of caregivers. After his death, Doty feels as if he’s fallen in love with Wally all over again. Heaven’s Coast is suffused with love.

Kelli S.
Really grateful for this book. In addition to being one of the most real grief memoirs I've read, Mr Doty actually captures some of that very strange juxtaposition of total despair with moments of peace that (sometimes) accompanies losing someone you love. Difficult to explain, but well explained in this book.
Suzanne
I kept having to put this book down. Simply put, it's devastating. Doty writes of his partner's long slow death from AIDS with dignity and courage.

Also check out his poem "The New Dog," which comes from an episode related in this memoir. I can't think of without getting teary. It's beautiful.
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Mark Doty is the author of six books of poems and two memoirs, Heaven's Coast and Firebird. A Guggenheim, Ingram-Merrill, and Whiting Fellow, he has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Nonfiction. He teaches at the University of Houston, and divides his time between Houston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
More about Mark Doty...
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“All my life I've lived with a future which constantly diminishes but never vanishes.” 5 likes
“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.” 4 likes
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