vocalisms is a twice monthly feature that presents selected tracks from voca, the Poetry Center's online audio video library of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.
Mark Doty (1993), “Chanteuse”
If I think of contemporary poets who write long poems to great advantage, I think first of Mark Doty. In poems longer than many contemporary poets write, Doty braids ideas and images, never too neatly, never too loosely for us to see the whole that finally emerges. For me, listening to this recording of Doty reading “Chanteuse” in 1993 helps me identify the techniques he uses to structure the poem. “Name the colors,” he reads early on—listen for these lines to come back around again and again throughout. Listen for lists of things, listen for the quoted lines from “My Romance” by Rodgers and Hart. Doty uses these repeated elements as guideposts to lead us through this lush love poem to Boston and to cities in general as “vast repositor[ies] of memory and desire.”