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


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now