Paraphrasing From Mark Doty

Landscape, With Sudden Rain, Wet Blooms, and a Van Eyck Painting (an excerpt)

— by Luisa A. Igloria

Who else loves his own decorum as I do? The names
of trees are lovely in Latinate. I can’t recite those,

can only name their changing colors: flush
and canary, stripped and rose; or moan like the voice

of a cello in the leaves, imitating human speech.

That artful bit of landscape description we encountered in the first couplet? Now we can understand that was an act of avoidance, of self-distraction. I can name the colors, the speaker tells us, or I can merely moan. Naming “the changing colors” becomes a means both of revealing pain and containing it, just as these decorous couplets provide kind of orderly structure in which to organize this poem’s song of lament. There is the lovely paradox: the poem is a moan, but it is a song too.

To paraphrase: the written piece is a moan, but it is a song too.

Music is not an outcry, or an only one.

A piece of writing is not an outcry, or an only one; it is a made thing that testifies to our persistence, and to a faith in the power and necessity of art. Which sometimes does nothing but make an outcry bearable — but that gesture, in itself, can be quite enough.

— Mark Doty, from the Foreword to Luisa A. Igloria’s collection, Ode to the Heart Small as a Pencil Eraser (Winner of the 2014 May Swenson Award)

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