Acclaimed American poet and memoirist Mark Doty came to Ramapo for a reading in the Trustees Pavilion on Tuesday. The event, which was open to the public, was sponsored by “Readings at Ramapo.”
Introducing Doty was Carlie Hoffman, a Ramapo alumna, who welcomed him by praising his successes, which include, but are not limited to, nine books of poetry and four books of prose; his works include “Fire to Fire,” “My Alexandria” and “Dog Years: A Memoir.” Doty has been lauded by such accolades as the Lightning Writers Award, the T.S. Elliot Prize, the National Poetry Series Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award for “Fire to Fire.”
“Mark Doty exceeds our expectations,” Hoffman said.
Students filled the room to listen to Doty read eight of his poems, a number of which can be found in his book of poetry “Deep Lane.” Among the poems Ramapo’s students and faculty had the privilege of enjoying that evening were “House of Beauty,” “Rope,” “A Display of Mackerel,” “Theory of Marriage (The Hug)” and “Pescadero.”
“There is something about poetry that puts you in a new world of feeling,” Doty said at the reading.
“I agree with his opinion on poetry,” said sophomore Alexis Diaz when asked what she thought about Doty’s comment on poetry. “It takes me to a place where I have never been; I love the freedom it brings.”
“Inspiring,” is how third-year student Samantha Maenza described her experience at the reading. She went on to call him “a dynamic writer filled with creativity and uniqueness.”
In Doty’s poems, he often makes references to animals like dogs, mammoths and mackerels. Students like Diaz and Maenza found his use of animals to be profound and unique.
“He mentioned throughout his reading how he enjoys including animals because of their lack of words – their inability to communicate through voice, and their innocence,” Maenza said.
“It gives depth to his metaphors between pet and poet,” continued Diaz.
Doty is currently a distinguished professor and writer-in-residence in the Department of English at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where he also directs Writers House. He previously taught at places like the University of Iowa, Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, Cornell and NYU.
“Dedicated, admirable and down to earth,” is what junior Brandon Petty said of Doty. He said the experience at the reading was “insightful” and he was able to connect with Doty as a fellow poet who uses poetry as an “outlet.”
The reading went on for about an hour and ended with a Q&A. Among the questions asked was one by Caroline Severino, who touched on something many readers would want to ask Doty about his poem “A Display of Mackerel.”
“Why mackerel? Why not potato chips?” Severino asked.
Doty explained that it is simply about the tone of a poem and the beauty of the word.
“Mackerel: you really have a lovely word and you have the radiance. The rainbow-colored fish scales and the suggestion of armor or chain mail are intricate – they are like jewelry,” Doty answered.
Along with the evening reading, Doty was expected for a talk earlier that day, but a complication in his journey from Manhattan delayed his arrival to Ramapo. But those who attended his evening reading unanimously forgave him, as he honored the College with his outstanding poetry reading. A round of applause filled the room at the close of Doty’s reading, after which he stuck around to do a book signing.