Mark Doty’s easy, gaudy style loves whatever the eye happens to light upon; his short lines and shorter stanzas are seduced by the surface of things. There were Renaissance artists who specialized in a particular effect—the drape of fabric, say, or a haunting smile—and, if you want all that glitters, Doty is your man. He has a genius for the rhetoric of light—at first this was method; now it’s compulsion. The poems in Sweet Machine show no restraint in their devotion.[1] Even decay has its gorgeousness:


rotting palaces flung straight
up from the sea, yellow
of mummy wrappings,


coral and rose
moldering now, faded
to precisely these


bruised and mottled
rusts; acid, lichenous
greens: vitriolized,


encrusted, pearled.

When he mingles disgust and the aesthetic,...

 
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