Hall-Kenyon Award: Beach Roses, by Mark Doty

Published: 9/23/2016 3:14:30 PM

This is the second in a series of three poems by Mark Doty, who will receive the 2016 Hall-Kenyon Award in American Poetry at the Concord City Auditorium on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students) and are available at Gibson’s Bookstore, the Concord Monitor front desk and online at poetrynightmarkdoty.eventbrite.com. Wesley McNair, who chooses each year’s recipient in consultation with Donald Hall, wrote the commentary.

 

Mark Doty has written that “in an age marked by homogenization,” where “the manipulation of desire is on a global scale,” people hunger for “aspects of self that can’t be marketed.” Unlike any other art form, he says, poetry is “saturated with the texture of the uniquely felt life.”

In his poems he often immerses himself in particular moments, elevating them through the intensity of his observation. He is especially drawn to the beauty that can be found in unlikely and fleeting events. Another poet writing about beach roses, the subject of today’s poem, might describe them in full bloom. But Doty is interested in roses that have gone by, yet still remain – beautiful in their evanescence, and permanent in the attention he brings to them.

BEACH ROSES

What are they, the white roses,

when they are almost nothing.

only a little denser than the fog,

-

shadow-centered petals blurring,

toward the edges, into everything?

-

This morning one broken cloud

built an archipelago,

               fourteen gleaming islands

-

hurrying across a blank plain of sheen:

nothing, or next to nothing

-

– pure, scattering, light on light,

fleeting.

      And now, a heap of roses

beside the sea, white rugose

beside the foaming hem of shore:

                              brave,

-

waxen candles…

-

                     And we walk

as if death were a line to be crossed.

Look at them, the white roses.

Tell me where they end.




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