Poetry as Art, and Vice Versa

More from the Mark Doty book: he regularly compares painting—and so art, in general—to poetry, in its evocative, metaphorical syntax and usage and the ways it affects us when we experience it.

In still life, it’s the same: these things had a history, a set of personal meanings; they were someone’s. The paintings seem to refer to this life of ownership, and to suggest something of the feeling attached to things, while withholding any narrative. What could we ever know of this cup or platter, the pearl-handled knife? Their associations are long since dead, though something of the personal seems to glow here still, all its particulars distilled into an aura of intimacy.

Mark Doty, Still Life With Oysters and Lemon

What Lies Beneath All the Stuff You Make From Here On Out

It’s only everything. Everything you were and are, all you’ve seen and heard. It’s all in the stew. It’s all past that fuels and lays the foundation for the future, and the act of making funnels it through a venturi tube of consolidation.

I’ve finished Mark Doty’s enthralling Still Life With Oysters and Lemon, underlining and line-marking as I went. A book ostensibly about Dutch still life painting from the 17th Century, it folds in an increasingly deep examination of art and personal experience bit by bit. It’s a lovely book on its own, but it’s also instructive on the ways art encompasses the things of the world and our inner interpretation of it.