This review is taken from Stand 212, 14(4) December 2016 - February 2017.

Mark Doty, Deep Lane (Cape, 2015)

Deep Lane urges and withholds connection: nine poems share the collection’s title, staking a claim for belonging to the whole and to each other. Images and poems are put together collage-like, daring the reader to join the dots and assemble a picture from the gaps and rapprochements suggested. In ‘This Your Home Now’ a friend, Marie, teases the speaker: ‘In your poems there’s always a then’. Thens, implicit and explicit, pepper Deep Lane:   things happen one after another, denied the meaningfulness of cause and effect, but necessary, inextricable. As the speaker responds to Marie: ‘Is it a poem without a then?’

Essential as they are, connection and completedness are hard work. From the outset, the speaker is on his knees harrowing the earth, fracturing it to allow creation. He is not crafting growth from dirt; this is tough, necessary graft: ‘Beauty’s the least of it/ you get ready’ (‘Deep Lane (When I’m down on my knees…)’). The muted timbre of the first five poems is punctuated with pops of pure animal joy and moments of grief so sharp they threaten to rupture the fragile equilibrium to be found there. The poems coalesce to depict a life shaped by the bittersweet pleasure of living in proximity (if not quite in harmony) with an animal and vegetable world.

And then – then – ‘Crystal’ shatters the uneasy pastoral of the opening suite with an insistently alternative version of what is ‘natural’: the mineral. An injected drug provokes a crescendo of narcotic ...
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