Looking for words

The latest in Graywolf Press’ delightful “The Art of …” series, Mark Doty’s The Art of Description: World Into Word attempts to pass on to readers the distinguishing gift of his poetry: an ability to wrest from language something very, very close to the reality of the world as it is experienced. The difference between a normal person and a poet is more than the difference between a tree and a sycamore, it’s also, as Doty points out, finding “words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf.” In close readings of familiar poems (including Elizabeth Bishop’s masterpiece, “The Fish”), Doty shows how the structure of language transforms the ideas and the things that house them at the heart of a poem. Lest you think this is a craft manual, rest assured that this small book is instead a directory for the enjoyment of, not only poetry, but words as we use them, every day and everywhere.