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The Art of Description: World into Word

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"It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see," Mark Doty begins. "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . ." Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop "It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see," Mark Doty begins. "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . ." Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others. The Art of Description is an invaluable book by one of America's most revered writers and teachers.


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"It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see," Mark Doty begins. "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . ." Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop "It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see," Mark Doty begins. "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . ." Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others. The Art of Description is an invaluable book by one of America's most revered writers and teachers.

30 review for The Art of Description: World into Word

  1. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Orey

    Alright, I think I understand description and poetry even less after reading this book, but I think that may be a good thing. I didn't expect it to be focused more on poetry than prose, but I'd love to be a better poet and reader of poetry, so that was great. There are some beautiful lines here and some great poems to think with. My favorite parts of the book were when the author played with the specific words, senses, and details of descriptions in poems, showing how descriptions worked and how Alright, I think I understand description and poetry even less after reading this book, but I think that may be a good thing. I didn't expect it to be focused more on poetry than prose, but I'd love to be a better poet and reader of poetry, so that was great. There are some beautiful lines here and some great poems to think with. My favorite parts of the book were when the author played with the specific words, senses, and details of descriptions in poems, showing how descriptions worked and how if little things were changed in the poem, the feel would be way different. Definitely worth a read and a re-read. This is one of the books recommended in Vandermeer's Wonderbook. It definitely made me want to read more of his recommendations.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    I can't gush enough about this one. I wanted to underline every word: there wasn't a superfluous phrase in the entire volume. Doty more than convinced me of the power of the word to bring us into closer relationship with the world; while language is never enough, it's all we have and used powerfully by poets it can open the world to us. The poets Doty uses for examples range from Shelley to Jean Valentine (a personal favorite) and his discussions are always exciting and enlightening. The book is d I can't gush enough about this one. I wanted to underline every word: there wasn't a superfluous phrase in the entire volume. Doty more than convinced me of the power of the word to bring us into closer relationship with the world; while language is never enough, it's all we have and used powerfully by poets it can open the world to us. The poets Doty uses for examples range from Shelley to Jean Valentine (a personal favorite) and his discussions are always exciting and enlightening. The book is dense but not impenetrable and, with some effort, I found myself able to understand it. The effort was really minimal considering the payoff.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kitty

    Thoroughly enjoyable. “Every object rightly seen unlocks a new faculty of the soul.” (Emerson) This book will provide you with a “workshop in your pocket” to help you see and unlock. This book is well worth the romp through the territory called by Coleridge “Best Word, Best Order”. Description is one of those words that is worth holding up, like an ode, especially if one is a poet. How we describe an object, person, scene, experience is to imbue it with a life beyond what our eyes see. Doty takes Thoroughly enjoyable. “Every object rightly seen unlocks a new faculty of the soul.” (Emerson) This book will provide you with a “workshop in your pocket” to help you see and unlock. This book is well worth the romp through the territory called by Coleridge “Best Word, Best Order”. Description is one of those words that is worth holding up, like an ode, especially if one is a poet. How we describe an object, person, scene, experience is to imbue it with a life beyond what our eyes see. Doty takes us through the layers of perception and discussion of image with words that are not lost in some academic subtext. He provides the reader not only with examples of poems, quotations and ideas ranging from George Herbert to contemporary American poets, but also with a set of keys to engage new understanding. We know the rule, “show don’t tell” – which caters to the definition of description as the act, or technique of describing, not simply listing facts of what we see. He reminds the reader of Proust’s descriptions, resembling those Japanese flowers gathered tightly into a small sea-shell of a capsule which when dropped into water, slowly and yet surprisingly, expands and blooms. So it is to braid layers of perceptions, including all the senses, and reflect both on what we notice and what is invoked from the past, and if we’re lucky, to find a metaphor, stumble on a point of view, so as to create a totally unique flower. Doty has one chapter devoted to different Sunflower poems, where he analyzes the tone, message; an entire chapter on Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, The Fish and references a dozen complete poems.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kendrick

    I often tell my friends that I like Mark Doty as a craftsman more than I like his poetry. World into Word, which comes under the Graywolf series, "The Art of...", is a poetry craft book that doesn't appear so. With just six essays, World into Word covers Doty's intense ability to prolong and excavate the act of seeing, showing that seeing can be enlivened beyond the mechanic and lacklustre nature of daily life. There are aspects of World into Word which I enjoyed. I love how Doty thinks about col I often tell my friends that I like Mark Doty as a craftsman more than I like his poetry. World into Word, which comes under the Graywolf series, "The Art of...", is a poetry craft book that doesn't appear so. With just six essays, World into Word covers Doty's intense ability to prolong and excavate the act of seeing, showing that seeing can be enlivened beyond the mechanic and lacklustre nature of daily life. There are aspects of World into Word which I enjoyed. I love how Doty thinks about colour and notices it in the world. I also love his extended analysis of Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish", which I think is the finest essay of the collection. He makes a strong case for the need for contemporary poetry to bring the world back into their lines, to regain sense and perception. Less convincing were the essays about sunflowers, and the titular essay - The Art of Description - which is a series of 26 vignettes linked in A-B-C format. For the former, I thought the insights a little abstract, and for the latter, I thought the structure forced. Nevertheless, Doty's writing is wonderfully dense and carefully plotted. I always love looking through his eyes, and this book is a good tonic to be reintroduced to poems I've loved and forgotten. I don't think it deserves poor reviews just because it is a poetry craft book (and not a prose one). World into Word is one of Doty's finer works, but its just that maybe I wouldn't pick this as an introduction to Doty's oeuvre. 4 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emprise

    Several years ago a poet-friend recounted a humorous anecdote about a creative writing professor he took as an undergraduate. A respected short-story writer, the prof was teaching an introductory course where English majors would write in all four modes—fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry—as a means of honing their skills and gauging which was their “true calling,” if such a thing exists. The semester was a boon for all until the final unit on poetry rolled around, when the professor’s sage Several years ago a poet-friend recounted a humorous anecdote about a creative writing professor he took as an undergraduate. A respected short-story writer, the prof was teaching an introductory course where English majors would write in all four modes—fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry—as a means of honing their skills and gauging which was their “true calling,” if such a thing exists. The semester was a boon for all until the final unit on poetry rolled around, when the professor’s sage advice all but evaporated. The only wisdom she could conjure during lectures was “poetry needs to be as vivid as possible,” and her marginal comments on assignments were of two varieties: “hmm, I can’t see this,” or “yes, I see it!” It was with this quaint allegory in mind that I read Mark Doty’s The Art of Description: World into Word, recently published by Graywolf Press. While I have always admired Doty’s poems—particularly his collections Sweet Machine and My Alexandria—I must confess that I half-expected to encounter some expressive-but-stale workshop chestnuts peppered with a healthy dollop of Poundian imagism. (“Throw the object on to the visual imagination,” Pound laconically wrote in 1934’s ABC of Reading.) While The Art of Description is ultimately geared for a beginning or emerging writer, Doty’s jovial and illustrative prose, surprisingly eclectic range of sample poems, and constant acknowledgement that the registering of experience (and thus language) is fraught with subjectivity all make this brief study worthy of any poet’s bookshelf...Read the rest at the site

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christine Grabowski

    I had a difficult time with this book. It was required in one of my writing class. Other participants LOVED this book, but they were into poetry. As a person who doesn't read poetry I had a difficult time getting through it and had a hard time applying it to my YA fiction writing. I had a difficult time with this book. It was required in one of my writing class. Other participants LOVED this book, but they were into poetry. As a person who doesn't read poetry I had a difficult time getting through it and had a hard time applying it to my YA fiction writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    If this had been called the art of conotation, it would have been a 5-star review. Great poetry, great examples of how to read criticially, not-so great instruction on "the art of description". If this had been called the art of conotation, it would have been a 5-star review. Great poetry, great examples of how to read criticially, not-so great instruction on "the art of description".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Megan Wenng

    totally meant for poets, but I'll be damned if I didn't pull something out of it as a strict fiction writer. totally meant for poets, but I'll be damned if I didn't pull something out of it as a strict fiction writer.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Anthony Sam

    With this collection of thoughts and essays. Mark Doty shows that not only is he a fine poet, he is also a great explicator of poetry and advocate for its craft. He argues effectively for description of the world and the inner experience of it, and the informing of each by the other. Doty also points to a critical problem with so much current poetry: "Startling, to go description-hunting and realize that I can thumb through whole books of recent poems with very little evocation of sense perceptio With this collection of thoughts and essays. Mark Doty shows that not only is he a fine poet, he is also a great explicator of poetry and advocate for its craft. He argues effectively for description of the world and the inner experience of it, and the informing of each by the other. Doty also points to a critical problem with so much current poetry: "Startling, to go description-hunting and realize that I can thumb through whole books of recent poems with very little evocation of sense perception within them. Why is this the case? I declare myself here on the side of allegiance to the sensible, things as they are, the given, the incompletely knowable, never to get done or get it right or render it whole: ours to say and say. The mightiest of our resources brought to the task, to make the world real." There is a loss of faith in the ability of language to be more than solipsistic, and a concomitant loss in the craft of making things sensible in both definitions of the word: "Now everybody in creation mistrusts language, and half the poems we read make a nod toward the unsayable. What’s to be done? Language won’t do what we wish it would, but we have nothing else—so we have to go forward and behave as if it could do what we wanted (with some faith in the miraculous fact that it does, from time to time, give us a “Song of Myself” or a Tender Buttons, something the world wouldn’t be the same without). "Perhaps we can inhabit the interesting middle ground that lies between, on the one side, giving up on referentiality altogether, and, on the other, cleaving to an outdated notion that words can be controlled, can say what we mean to say when we wish to make use of them." This a book for lovers of beautiful words and the desperate craft of believing that their distillation in unexpected liquors still makes life more alive.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ann Michael

    I loved this book, but then, I am a fan of most of Doty's work--so that's no surprise. For writers, particularly for poets, these brief and cogent essays offer opportunities for learning about how description works in the poem, and how a deft choice of language can alter tone, mood, meaning. Lovely examination of Bishop's seminal "The Fish." Worth studying if you want to write write about poetry, or to understand how poems operate. I loved this book, but then, I am a fan of most of Doty's work--so that's no surprise. For writers, particularly for poets, these brief and cogent essays offer opportunities for learning about how description works in the poem, and how a deft choice of language can alter tone, mood, meaning. Lovely examination of Bishop's seminal "The Fish." Worth studying if you want to write write about poetry, or to understand how poems operate.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This slim volume contains the words of great poets (Elizabeth Bishop, e.e. cummings, May Swenson and more), as well as beautifully crafted sentences. The chapter "Description's Alphabet" is genius. Two favorite quotes: "Description is an ART to the degree that it gives us not just the world but the inner life of the witness." "ECONOMY is a virtue, albeit an overrated one ... EXCESS, which is seldom understood to be a virtue, can certainly be a pleasure." This slim volume contains the words of great poets (Elizabeth Bishop, e.e. cummings, May Swenson and more), as well as beautifully crafted sentences. The chapter "Description's Alphabet" is genius. Two favorite quotes: "Description is an ART to the degree that it gives us not just the world but the inner life of the witness." "ECONOMY is a virtue, albeit an overrated one ... EXCESS, which is seldom understood to be a virtue, can certainly be a pleasure."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sigrun Hodne

    I really wanted to read this book, reading so many positive reviews, but ended up a bit disappointed. I see it mainly as a series of poetry analysis. I guess I hoped for a more comparative & philosophical approach to The Art of Description: World into Word.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    My goals this year are to always have a book of poetry and a book about writing in process. Some have been much better than others, but few have really influenced how or what I write. It's hard to define what that influence is when it happens. It's not that a book gives specific instructions or writing prompts and I follow them. It's more that I feel something of the spirit of the writer, and that influences me. This is one of those books! It is composed of short sections that would be easy to r My goals this year are to always have a book of poetry and a book about writing in process. Some have been much better than others, but few have really influenced how or what I write. It's hard to define what that influence is when it happens. It's not that a book gives specific instructions or writing prompts and I follow them. It's more that I feel something of the spirit of the writer, and that influences me. This is one of those books! It is composed of short sections that would be easy to read a little bit each day. I was already impressed with Mark Doty, but not I am even more so. Glad to have this insight into his mind. Highly recommend to poets!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Brief but dense exploration of good description in poetry. I especially enjoyed when the author picked different poems on the same theme (four poems about sunflowers, for example) and compared how they described the topic and what that language has.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Oisin

    Short but sweet, lots of key concepts and ideas presented in a fun and thought-provoking way. Really helped grow my appreciation for description and the myriad of effects that can be achieved with it. Ultimately energising.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

    First read: January 17, 2020, Friday

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zy Marquiez

    The Art Of Description is a very refreshing no frills examination of the many ways description can be employed in writing. Unorthodox in its approach, subtle, and yet quite insightful, Doty not only brings about compelling analysis of a smattering of writing styles, but also urges the reader to master their individual skill of observation. On this, Doty cogently writes: “To some degree, the art of description is the art of perception; what is required, in order to say what you see, is enhanced atte The Art Of Description is a very refreshing no frills examination of the many ways description can be employed in writing. Unorthodox in its approach, subtle, and yet quite insightful, Doty not only brings about compelling analysis of a smattering of writing styles, but also urges the reader to master their individual skill of observation. On this, Doty cogently writes: “To some degree, the art of description is the art of perception; what is required, in order to say what you see, is enhanced attention to that looking and the more you look, the more information you get….The resulting visual journey can feel intricate indeed; it makes us see the world before us as composed not of discrete things that don’t touch, but as a continuous realm of interconnected lines. To be better at description, we have to work at attentiveness.”[1] Beyond such insight, the author incisively samples the writing of individuals such as Blake, Pound, Swenson, Shelley, Ginsberg, Cummings, et al, thoughtfully ruminating upon particular gems that these writers have left for individuals to glean upon. Sampling such range in writing allows the reader to see a wider range of styles, each offering a varying, yet exquisite taste, all of which helps solidify the writer’s repertoire. Another point the Doty centers upon is what can be learned from poetry. Echoing the actions of Benjamin Franklin, who once used poetry to expand his vocabulary and writing prowess, the author notes: “Poetry’s project is to use every aspect of language to its maximum effectiveness, finding within it nuances and powers we otherwise could not hear. So the poet needs to be a supreme handler of the figurative speech we all use every day, employing language’s tendency to connect like and disparate things to the richest possible effects. In poetry, figuration is at its most sophisticated; condensed, alive with meaning, pointing in multiple directions at once….It’s one of the poet’s primary tools for conveying the texture of experience, and for inquiring into experience in search for meaning.”[2] Such an examination aids the reader in gaining a deeper understanding of the depth and precision that may be employed when writing poetry. Coming to terms with this, one is also able to thoughtfully approach the art of writing from a more mindful perspective that allows individuals a much wider latitude from which to compose a piece. At another juncture, Doty shares a sentiment that calls to mind Edgar Allen Poe’s wondrous definition of poetry when he said, “Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” The author beautifully observes that: “Every achieved poem inscribes a perceptual signature in the world.”[3] Just as the creative ventures of artists from time immemorial echo into the present, so will the poems of the present echo into the future, continuously leaving dashes of beauty with their very essence. The Art Of Description is a discerning read in its entirety, that is experienced in its approach, and shrewd in its execution. If you’re seeking a new writing path that will not only be novel, but will also teach you how to create your very own path, or perhaps even finetune your old one, then begin right here. ___________________________________________________________ Footnotes: [1] Mark Doty, The Art Of Description, p. 72. [2] Ibid., p. 76. [3] Ibid., p. 21.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Moll

    Book: The Art of Description Author: Mark Doty Publishing Information: St. Paul: Graywolf Books Mark Doty, known for his descriptive and artfully provocative poetry, uses the complexity of sensory details to force the reader’s mind to center on creativity. The short novel focuses a lot of energy towards describing the world in which we live and how the moments where we are at a loss for words or breathe only means we are content with ourselves. The piece reads like a guidebook for writers and how i Book: The Art of Description Author: Mark Doty Publishing Information: St. Paul: Graywolf Books Mark Doty, known for his descriptive and artfully provocative poetry, uses the complexity of sensory details to force the reader’s mind to center on creativity. The short novel focuses a lot of energy towards describing the world in which we live and how the moments where we are at a loss for words or breathe only means we are content with ourselves. The piece reads like a guidebook for writers and how important it is to acquire description from every possible angle before trying to understand the process of putting it into words. The first half of the book focuses on poetry defining ways in which to use description in prose. This section of the book is very insightful because of how Mark Doty proves how impossible it is to put into words some of the most basic of human interactions or daily routines. It is in this that he is able to connect the reader with the idea that a writer is a creator as much as a very observant fly on the wall. Although the book reads as a guideline for becoming a strong writer, it deserves a deeper look than it just being a college style textbook. He breaks down his poetry by looking at the root of its meaning followed by the process of attaching descriptions that would fill most if not all of the senses. This fleshing-out process allows the writer to become in tune with their inner vision for their own piece of written work. However, the non-writer will enjoy this book as well because of the central theme focusing on human interactions and how difficult it is to put life into words. He also explores the difficulties that come when faced with the impossible task of connecting the reader with the writer’s intent without forcing it upon them too heavily. Mark uses his poetry in this instance to expand on the need for sentence structure to be within the control the writer, and the writer must understand this in order to command the images they are trying to create. There are a few moments in the novel where I thought his personal opinion about having boundaries but knowing when to break them confused his over-all theme. Mark’s strong use of opinion made it seem as if he forgot his readers which made me almost feel inferior for not being able to keep up. The textbook style in which it reads can be jarring at first because of how direct the voice is, but it follows his motif of human connection and interaction. The final result of the book kept me questioning the act of writing and how important the connection between writer and reader truly is. The last chapter that attaches description with each letter from the alphabet is just another example Mark gives as proof that description is in the eyes of the beholder if and only if they are smart enough to be able to describe it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Novalis

    Doty takes patience--more patience than I had, at first. He's content to wax eloquent on the many ways different poets describe reality without coming to any clear conclusion or through-line, and if you're willing to walk alongside him without a destination, you'll be treated to some truly beautiful thoughts on the nature of language and perception. That being said, I still wish there had been a bit more organization or development to the work as a whole, as it's ending was more of a stopping po Doty takes patience--more patience than I had, at first. He's content to wax eloquent on the many ways different poets describe reality without coming to any clear conclusion or through-line, and if you're willing to walk alongside him without a destination, you'll be treated to some truly beautiful thoughts on the nature of language and perception. That being said, I still wish there had been a bit more organization or development to the work as a whole, as it's ending was more of a stopping point than a conclusion. Nevertheless, a worthy traveling companion for the afternoon. "Beauty is not loveliness, grace, or pleasurable sights, though any of those might certainly be part of it. For the write out to evoke the texture of experience, beauty is simply accuracy, to come as close as we can to what seems to be the real. As Galway Kinney writes, in perhaps the only sentence in English where the same verb repeats three times in a row and still makes sublime sense: 'Whatever what is is is what I want.'"

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Overby

    Being that it's written by a poet, this book is not the brick and mortar on the topic one finds in a book like Rebecca McClanahan's "Word Painting." Doty starts by admitting the hopelessness of the task of describing description, then embarks on something more like a meditation, presenting and unpacking example after example, insighting and enlightening and in the end, instructing more by injecting a sense of it into the brain than by laying out any step-by-step. A curious twist is the chapter t Being that it's written by a poet, this book is not the brick and mortar on the topic one finds in a book like Rebecca McClanahan's "Word Painting." Doty starts by admitting the hopelessness of the task of describing description, then embarks on something more like a meditation, presenting and unpacking example after example, insighting and enlightening and in the end, instructing more by injecting a sense of it into the brain than by laying out any step-by-step. A curious twist is the chapter titled "Four Sunflowers." Looking at the table of contents, one thinks, "Oh god, he's going to use his own poem (the magnificent "Four Sunflowers, One Upside Down") as example!" But instead, he takes descriptions of sunflowers from four great poets of the past, including Blake and Ginsberg, and uses them to illuminate the art of description beautifully and in very few words. One final comment: This is a book for poets first and foremost, but as a fiction writer, I found it very helpful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Williams

    Having read the entire Graywolf ‘The Art of…’ series, I found Doty’s “…Description” the most inspiring and philosophically helpful. Not only are the poetry selections he pulls from balanced (classical through contemporary, male and female, narrative and experimental), but he provides in-depth analyses that resonate with his broader linguistic concerns. Unlike a few other books in this series, ‘Description’ lays a larger-level philosophical groundwork by which all poems and analyses can be judged Having read the entire Graywolf ‘The Art of…’ series, I found Doty’s “…Description” the most inspiring and philosophically helpful. Not only are the poetry selections he pulls from balanced (classical through contemporary, male and female, narrative and experimental), but he provides in-depth analyses that resonate with his broader linguistic concerns. Unlike a few other books in this series, ‘Description’ lays a larger-level philosophical groundwork by which all poems and analyses can be judged. Doty writes confidently yet with humility. He recognizes the subjectivity of his analyses and sees such subjectivity as a reason to celebrate, not as a condemning statement about artistic creation.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Monica Drake

    Fabulous insights into the connection between writing and visual arts, and how we perceive the world, how we translate those perceptions into written or visual work. Mostly, the first 64 pages of this slim book are really worthwhile, in terms of generating ideas, raising one's expectations and estimation of capturing things such as, perhaps, the "simultaneity of perception" on the page. After page 64, it shifts to an alphabet style of delivery, "Description's Alphabet." Something about that sect Fabulous insights into the connection between writing and visual arts, and how we perceive the world, how we translate those perceptions into written or visual work. Mostly, the first 64 pages of this slim book are really worthwhile, in terms of generating ideas, raising one's expectations and estimation of capturing things such as, perhaps, the "simultaneity of perception" on the page. After page 64, it shifts to an alphabet style of delivery, "Description's Alphabet." Something about that section feels more forced, less organic, though lovely.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    A dear friend purchased this book for me, hoping to assist in my dreams of writing a novel. Unfortunately, that dream has never materialized, but it is still a desire. My passion for story has never diminished, and I find myself waltzing within the realm of fiction more and more as I age. This is an important book for anyone who wishes to write or wishes to teach writing well. Engaging throughout.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Read this for my creative writing course. Made some interesting points about description as perceived moments, and how naming lends power. The more words we know, the better we understand what we see, the better we describe. For me, this book was heavily geared towards poetry analysis, which wasn't of much use or interest to me personally. Might be better suited towards poets/poetry students, though fiction writers can find some nuggets of wisdom too. Read this for my creative writing course. Made some interesting points about description as perceived moments, and how naming lends power. The more words we know, the better we understand what we see, the better we describe. For me, this book was heavily geared towards poetry analysis, which wasn't of much use or interest to me personally. Might be better suited towards poets/poetry students, though fiction writers can find some nuggets of wisdom too.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Kallimanis

    As a textbook, it works well for young writers. Sometimes the material is a bit condescending in tone, and one gets the feeling that there's no chance Doty would notice. He seems to forget he's actually writing to an audience. As a textbook, it works well for young writers. Sometimes the material is a bit condescending in tone, and one gets the feeling that there's no chance Doty would notice. He seems to forget he's actually writing to an audience.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Featherbooks

    Valuable, informative way of reading poetry from Poet Mark Doty. I checked this out from the library but will need to own it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bernie Gourley

    Usually, when a book isn’t what one expected, a feeling of disappointment accompanies that mismatch between expectation and experience. For me, this was the rare exception to that situation. I expected more of a how-to manual and less of a collection of essays. [I also expected a book that was less poetry-dominant and which touched upon prose writing to a greater extent. But that was entirely my oversight.] Anyhow, I think I got far more out of this book than I would have if it had been the book Usually, when a book isn’t what one expected, a feeling of disappointment accompanies that mismatch between expectation and experience. For me, this was the rare exception to that situation. I expected more of a how-to manual and less of a collection of essays. [I also expected a book that was less poetry-dominant and which touched upon prose writing to a greater extent. But that was entirely my oversight.] Anyhow, I think I got far more out of this book than I would have if it had been the book I expected. It encouraged me to revamp my thought process about writing description -- be it poetic or prose. The book is short, consisting of six chapters that take varied approaches to the subject. The first few chapters build on an idea that the art of description requires insight both into perception and into the nature of that which we become conscious. That is, one is not trying to perfectly describe the full extent of the world that lies before one. If one did that: a.) one would fail; b.) the reader would not be granted insight into what captures the writer’s eye – i.e. insight into the mind of the artist; c.) one’s writing would become drudgery to read. [I recently started Yukio Mishima’s “The Temple of Dawn” and he begins the first chapter with dense, wall-to-wall description of the story’s Bangkok environs, and I found the thicket of description was losing me. It should be noted that after that opening, the readability becomes excellent – i.e. very story- and character-centric.] There are certainly other issues discussed in the first four chapters. One idea that resonated with me was Chapter two’s discussion of the importance of how we perceive time (as opposed to the orderly pace at which it unfolds,) and the role of temporal perception in description. The penultimate and final chapters are quite distinct, both different from each other and from the preceding chapters. Chapter five, entitled “Four Sunflowers,” presents four poems that feature sunflowers to show how various poetic masters take on a given subject. The four poems are by William Blake, Alan Shapiro, Allan Ginsberg, and Tracy Jo Barnwell. The final chapter follows a glossary format, and is entitled, “Descriptions Alphabet.” This section actually makes up about half of the book, and it considers a range of relevant topics in an ABC format. Some of these topics are discussed in more detail than others, and are of greater importance than others. Discussions that particularly resonated with me were one on “Economy” versus “Excess,” one about metaphors, similes, and Figures of speech, and those on Qualifiers, Sonic quality, and Verbs. In this chapter, the author delves into the value of common advice that is often (unfortunately) delivered in Biblical – i.e. “thou shall” / “thou shalt not” form. The point being that it’s often bad practice to follow such advice so dogmatically. As I said, I got a lot out of this book. It’s a quick read, but loaded with food-for-thought. I’d highly recommend it both for poets and for prose writers. (Though, as I mentioned, it’s very much directed toward poets, e.g. all of the examples come from poetry. That said, the approach to thinking about description can be of value to any writer.)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Berger

    I'm not familiar with the series this book is from so maybe all of the books have a tendency to read like this-- but to me this isn't really much of an instructional guide at all. There are certainly good lessons to take away, but they're wrapped up in such dense directions of poetry (and this books seems really only interested in poetry and poetry alone) that this already short book feels like it has no meat on the bone that isn't one poet gushing over another. Doty is clearly extremely intelli I'm not familiar with the series this book is from so maybe all of the books have a tendency to read like this-- but to me this isn't really much of an instructional guide at all. There are certainly good lessons to take away, but they're wrapped up in such dense directions of poetry (and this books seems really only interested in poetry and poetry alone) that this already short book feels like it has no meat on the bone that isn't one poet gushing over another. Doty is clearly extremely intelligent and a gorgeous writer with a great metal detector for picking out what is beautiful or unspeakable (and then speaks it) but I think a great deal of the lessons don't really even get close enough to "description" in writing. It's just analysis of the poems an overwhelming majority of the time. "The art of the poetic" is already a book in this series. If you swapped the titles you would never be able to tell that this book was supposed to be about descriptions. To not have a single bit of prose analysis in here just seems like a bait and switch. Short and good to read if you go in hoping to learn something, anything about poetry. I'm definitely interested in checking out other books in this series-- but if they're anything like this I'd be very disappointed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peter Longden

    I wish half ratings were allowed here because l'd rate this book four and a half because, though not the perfect description of description, it comes very close! It is one perspective, that of the author, on how to look at and what to look for in understanding poetry; and, I have made several notes to come back to as it is that kind of book: an aide memoire to reading and understanding how poems are written. For anyone who avoids poetry because: 'it's too hard to understand so it's not for me'; o I wish half ratings were allowed here because l'd rate this book four and a half because, though not the perfect description of description, it comes very close! It is one perspective, that of the author, on how to look at and what to look for in understanding poetry; and, I have made several notes to come back to as it is that kind of book: an aide memoire to reading and understanding how poems are written. For anyone who avoids poetry because: 'it's too hard to understand so it's not for me'; or: 'I don't write poetry because I don't know how to describe what I see', should fear no more as, in this book, we are taken on a literary journey of eye-opening proportions. It is lie holding the book up to an eye ( perhaps a fish-eye) and watching the tiny jewels come to life as the light plays on them. There are jewels on every page, not hidden, but like treasure marked on a map with an 'X', it is clearly seen. On bookshelf beside 'The Ode Less Travelled' and you have the technical detail of writing poetry, 'yoked' with this, how description opens up the world with words.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    A relatively short but academic read, focused on the craft of writing using examples from poetry. I did not find it enthralling... however, I am not a writer, nor a student of poetry. A few notes... p. 22 : What is memory but a story about how we have lived? In Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" it takes dozens of pages to render the inner lives of a group of people sitting around a dinner table during a single meal; later in the book, decades pass in a few pages. This kind of shifting feels ac A relatively short but academic read, focused on the craft of writing using examples from poetry. I did not find it enthralling... however, I am not a writer, nor a student of poetry. A few notes... p. 22 : What is memory but a story about how we have lived? In Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" it takes dozens of pages to render the inner lives of a group of people sitting around a dinner table during a single meal; later in the book, decades pass in a few pages. This kind of shifting feels accurate because it replicates something of our internal sense of time, where the irrelevant portions blur while significant moments swell. p. 25 : Looking and looking causes time to open; sustained attention allows us to tumble right out of [forward] progression. p. 92 : Opening stanza of "Traveling" by Malena Mörling : Like streetlights still lit past dawn, the dead stare at us from the framed photographs. p. 108 : [...] the more we can name what we're seeing, the more language we have for it, the less likely we are to destroy it.

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