The three books that brought Mark Doty acclaim - the poetry collections My Alexandria and Atlantis, and the prose memoir Heaven's Coast - dealt unflinchingly with love and its loss. The poems in this new book are from a man transfigured and elevated by grief, and the tone throughout is one of celebration at the majesty, the impossible splendour of the living world. Whether the subject is golden retrievers or humpback whales, Delft tiles or Murano glass, lilacs on Third Avenue or turtles on Broadway, these are exquisite, transcendent hymns of praise: sensuous, brilliant and thrillingly alive.
Why should we read Doty? Because he is the finest American poet of the last twenty years, the most forceful and inventive versifier to appear in print since the death of Robert Lowell in 1977.
Having published the first poem and the last, I thought - having read the old poems too - I had known what to expect, but the senses are always new, and Doty's loyalty to them, and to the sense they make, continues to astonish, to enlighten, to console.
Mark Doty is a master, re-painting our sad daily canvas, heightening the gold light, the diffusion, the shocked shattered glass and the artificial bath of attitude, letting us see it all arrayed, as he says, under the 'uncompromising vault of heaven.