Mark Doty

Mark Doty

Past Event: Friday, February 26, 2010

At Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

Poetry Icon


Through work that critics have deemed “transcendent,” “intimate,” “gutsy” and even “miraculous,” Mark Doty has established his place as one of the most prominent voices in contemporary American poetry.

He is the author of eight collections of poems, including My Alexandria (1993), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Sweet Machine (1998); Source (2001); School of the Arts (2005) and Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (2008), which earned him the National Book Award for Poetry. Doty has also authored four memoirs, most recently the New York Times‘ bestseller Dog Years(2007).

Yet on the way to his many accomplishments, Doty has certainly traveled some difficult roads. Born into a nomadic military family in 1953, Doty was, as he put it, a “chubby smart bookish sissy with glasses and a Southern accent newly arrived from unimaginable places.” He faced many struggles in his youth, and fled a troubled home at age seventeen. After graduating from Drake University in Iowa, he moved to Manhattan, where he worked temporary office jobs and studied part-time at Goddard College in Vermont to earn his M.F.A.

It was in New York that Doty met Wally Roberts, his partner of twelve years, and then published his first book of poetry, Turtle, Swan, in 1987. Roberts was diagnosed with HIV in 1989, and his struggle and eventual death in 1994 was a devastating turn in the poet’s life. But as ever, Doty persevered and began to write about the couples’ experiences, the major subject of his regarded collection Atlantis (1995) and his first memoir Heaven’s Coast (1996), winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.

His writing has always refused to yield to complacency or compromise; as one reviewer noted, “we find Mark Doty exploring new territories and questioning himself at every turn.” He makes the notion of beauty a central concern in his work, often drawing a radiance and energy from sources that others would leave to be forgotten. Seizing upon the power of examination and understanding, he constantly reveals the ways in which, as he claims in one of his poems, “Any small thing can save you.” Poet Mary Oliver praised Doty’s “intense search for the exact word or phrase, of whatever issue, which lead him (and us) into the very furnace of meaning within the human story,” and called his poetry “ferocious, luminous and important.”

Doty’s writing has been featured in an array of literary publications, including The Atlantic MonthlyThe London Review of BooksPloughsharesPoetry, and The New Yorker. He has received a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards, and is the only American to have won the U.K.’s T. S. Eliot Prize. He has also been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest and Rockefeller Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.

Doty has been a faculty member at the University of Houston, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and recently served as the inaugural judge for the White Crane/James White Poetry Prize. He currently teaches at Rutgers University.

In the Airport Marshes
A kind of heaven,
this clamor, a lulliloo:
“to shout joyously,
to welcome with cries,

from a cry of joy among
some African peoples”:
Webster’s New International,
1934, a foot-thick volume

deftly marbled
as this patch of marsh.
Today I require the term
and there it is—these definitions

wait to be lived,
actual as these frogs,
who chorus as if
there’s no tomorrow,

or else they’ve all
the time in the world.
We ruin the rain,
they go right on,

this year. Hard to imagine
the eagerness of a body
which pours itself
into this—forms

you have to take on faith,
since all they seem
to be is chiming Morse
belling out long-short

over the parched tarmac
of the runway. I never till now
needed the word lulliloo.

How do you reckon your little music?

Selected Work

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (2008)
My Alexandria (1993), chosen for the National Poetry Series by Philip Levine
Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (1991)
Turtle, Swan (1987)

Dog Years, New York: HarperCollins, 2007

Mark Doty on
Doty’s essay “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now”

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall. The Recital Hall is located on the upper level of Benaroya Hall, up the stairs to the left side of the Box Office. Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth Avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second Avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


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