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My Alexandria: POEMS
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My Alexandria: POEMS (National Poetry Series #62)

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  695 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A versatile, technically astute poet, Doty masterfully tackles themes of death, beauty and discovery in this collection. Particularly moving is "Days of 1981," in which he recalls the memory of his first gay lover--a sculptor he met in a bar. "Nothing was promised, nothing sustained/or lethal offered. I wish I'd kept the heart./Even the emblems of our own embarrassment/bec ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by University of Illinois Press
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This book of poems had sat on my shelf for years waiting to be read. I'd heard that it referred to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. I thought I knew what it was about - on the cover of the book, the ruins, men sitting on great toppled stones, half broken walls rising above and pierced with holes for windows that looked on nothing. I was prepared for something painfully lovely, for words that enfolded and crushed until the chest ached. What I wasn't prepated for: snow.

...white cargo sifting
equally a
Roy Kesey
Such a lovely book. Clear lines working into some of the most complex elements of elemental life. An interest in language that is abiding but not overwhelming; a sense of narrative as quiet scaffolding. Some amazing, daring turns. Overtones of Frost. Nods to Rilke, especially in “Lament-Heaven” (which as Doty notes at the end has a title taken from a line of Stephen Mitchell's translation of Rilke's “Orpheus. Euridyce. Hermes”--and perhaps it's just a coincidence, but I also liked that “Lament-H ...more
After reading Doty’s memoir Heaven’s Coast, I was ready for his poetry, and I was prepared for them to be different, and they are, vastly different. The memoir showed me the thinking and feeling man; the poetry shows me the incredibly talented and intelligent poet. His poems capture what it means to be American, gay, mindful, and aware of social justice. They are beautifully American and capture the times without blame, bitterness, anger, hate. It reminds me of a poem of Adrienne Rich’s that mad ...more
The poems in this collection were not particularly dense, with a couple of passes through each one I felt like I grasped the key metaphors and messages. Doty teases out the metaphors from his experiences and tries to write them directly into his poems. I think his poetry succeeds because of these keen observations and beautiful writing, not due to some ability to pack haystacks of meaning into a mere needle’s worth of words.

I really enjoyed this collection, there is an underlying feeling of doom
Juliet Wilson
I don't know why I've never read any of Mark Doty's poetry collections before now. I'd heard of him and enjoyed individual poems and yet had never picked up a book by him until now.

My Alexandria is beautifully written and powerful, moving and full of intensely observed detail. A lot of the poems are long, especially The Wings which is 13 pages long (that's very long to a haiku writer such as I am!). The Wings starts with 'The bored child at the auction' who is reading while his parents wander ar
On my wedding morning, my dog killed a small mammal. I was hiking with family, and I'll never forget the sight of the poor thing, bleeding on its back, struggling with what little life he had left. When I read Mark Doty's poem "With Animals," the moment of that morning came crashing down on me. The narrator had come upon a dog in the snow; it had been shot in the head and had thrashed on its back all night. "Something cleaves to form until the last minute, past it/ and though the vet's needle wa ...more
Many of the cities about which Doty waxes lyrical in "My Alexandria" (New York, Boston, San Francisco, etc.) have already been eulogized to death; a devil's-advocate might even argue that you have to squint to see the resemblance between life in such sophisticated cities and life in, say, Middle America (much as I hate that Palin-popularized phrase!). Still, this is an admirably ambitious, and sometimes truly lovely, book. Doty likes to juxtapose two or more seemingly unrelated anecdotes within ...more
Lisha Adela
The book was about hyper reality nuance to deal with the ephemeral nature of life. So Phillip Levine style and indeed he did pick it for a National Poetry Award. My favorite line in the book, " Anything lived into long enough becomes and orchard" sums up the narrative poems. They were tight in stanzas of the same measure in each poem. For example, couplets or quatrains. Every word is calculated and yet the casual conversational aspect of the poems is as if one were in a museum observing all the ...more
Richard Jespers
“Almost Blue” is about Chet Baker. I love how Doty equates a poet with Baker, a trumpet poet.

If Hart Crane played trumpet
he'd sound like you, your horn's dark city

“Difference” is anthologized in 1994 Best American Poetry.
Incredible! I'm not even sure how to put into words my feelings about this book. Please read it, you will not regret it!
Mark Doty is the kind of poet I wanted to be, then abandoned, simply because I couldn't. Whereas Glück avoids the melodramatic, and attacks everything with stoic precision and irony, Doty heads towards the sentimental, the extravagant, and gets away with it, out of love. I adore his uncanny way of collecting a garage sale of objects—those random, worn-out things that have had their own promise of beauty—and elevate them into metaphors, make them sparkle again.

Favorite poem: Human Figures
This book is a great read!
Beautiful poems. They flow so effortlessly that it's easy to forget how much skill went into their creation.
I taught another of Doty's books to middle school students, and they claimed it made them see that literature can penetrate into the deeper parts of human thought. This book is an easy illustration of that. With just the right revelation, and experience, joined together by easy pivot points using anecdote or allusion, Doty manages to touch on the real tragedy of losing someone dear. The poem "Fog" is immortal.
My Alexandria is an analysis of mortality as interpreted by a gay man living in the time of HIV/AIDS. Doty uses the physical world of objects and fabrics, music and art, architecture and antiques to explore what is permanent and what is temporary in life. As evidenced by the awards it received, this was a breakthrough collection for one of today's most important poets.
At first read the poems were somewhat casual, but as I went back over them, got a sense of the general intensity of the unmentionables in the room and tried to follow more closely the movement of his attention, the poems began to feel incredibly clear, honest, and true to the function of mind which alights on the lightest moment of an intense event, then moves on to the next.
I got this at a reading with Mark Doty. I distinctly remember him treating me like a retard, which may have been on account of the pink unicorn I had with me.

Mark Doty: "So," he said in that voice you use to speak to children, "Do you carry that with you everywhere?"
Me: "Totes mcgoates dude. Can you sign this?"
I originally bought this for one for a uni writing course on poetry about the Sublime. This book is the only thing of value I gained from that course. Lyrical and beautiful, easily one of the best contemporary poets; Mark Doty is a treasure (and also really nice in person!). This book always makes me cry.
Masterful, and almost unbearably beautiful. If I could take only two books to a desert island they would be The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, and this. A must for every lover of contemporary poetry at its very finest.
Coffy Smith
Lovely, straightforward writing. Poems of substance and style. Doty takes the mundane into sublimity, deals with mortality without sentimentality, and grapples huge concepts without preachiness.
"I loved that city, the two of us traversing that light."

"Even the emblems of our own embarrassment become acceptable to us after a while." [very "forsan et haec olim meminisse"!:]
It was great to return to Doty's second book. I'm constantly surprised by how he is able to seamlessly weave past, present, and introspection with fresh language and lyrical intensity.
AIDS and death are looming, but not overt presences, which I think is really interesting. A very subtly written collection of lovely poems.
bill greene
Mar 05, 2008 bill greene rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to bill by: val
heartbreaking & unflinching series of poems doty wrote while his partner of many years was dying of AIDS.
I read this to my friend, Sandy, when he was very ill. The poetry is stimulating and full of surprises.
One of my favorite poets and this collection is my favorite of his. An inspiration to me for many years.
Colin Moon
Incredible work--beauty of line like this is rare and stupefying.
My favorite book of Mark Doty and that means it's great.
Der(ek) Warker
An Amazing Collection! Doty's best if you ask me!
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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...

Other Books in the Series

National Poetry Series (1 - 10 of 156 books)
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“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.”
“This is the entrance
To the city of you...”
More quotes…