School of the Arts by Mark Doty is not a book for the faint of heart or for those who are uncomfortable with reading about homosexuality. Having said that, this book of poetry is an excellent read if you are open-minded. Mark Doty takes on the ideas of death, gardening, film makers preventing him from walking his dogs in the usual path, and much more.
In the poem “Heaven for Helen” Mr. Doty describes his friend’s contentment with the idea of passing on and being a part of everything, while the poet himself struggles with the idea of becoming “one” with items such as diesel fuel and egg cartons. It certainly produced a smile on my face upon reading it, and I love his virtuous description of his friend: “Helen/would take the greatest pleasure/in being a scrap of paper,/if that’s what there was to experience.”
I also think the poem “Oncoming Train” points out our darker side, collectively, in our humanity. This poem describes the idea of restraining oneself from jumping in front of an oncoming train not out of a wish for death but because of (and these are Mark Doty’s lines) “…the idea of simply stepping out of forwardness/--that moment is the clearest invitation and opportunity.” Often there are moments where you wonder what would have happened if…? If you’d stepped out into the busy street without looking, if you’d gotten on that plane that crashed and is all over the news, if… The list could go on forever.
The poems in this collection challenge the readers to face the sometimes taboo, sometimes darker sides of life. Don’t worry though, there are also softer poems, funny poems, ones about giving a friend a flower to plant in his garden, or stripping down to nothing during a photo shoot out of adrenaline… In all, the book is lively and certainly won’t leave you bored. I hope that you will find Mark Doty as interesting as I do.
In the meantime, I insist you stop by tomorrow for a site that you can utilize to instill a love of poetry in children if you dare….