Award-winning poet to visit Victoria through the American Book Review reading series

Mark Doty

Contemporary poet and memoirist will talk about Walt Whitman, one of the founding fathers of American poetry, on Oct. 21 as part of the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Fall Reading Series.

 “I am working on a new prose book about Whitman, and I will talk about his remarkable poetic project and its continuing relevance to readers now,” said Doty, who expects the as-yet-untitled book to come out in two or three years.

Fire to Fire

Doty’s talk will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in the Alcorn Auditorium of the UHV University West Building, 3007 N. Ben Wilson. It is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served following the speech, and Doty’s 2008 book, “Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems,” will be available for purchase. 

Doty said he is fascinated with Whitman in part because the writer produced no work of real value until he was in his mid-30s. He then published – seemingly out of nowhere – “Leaves of Grass,” one of the masterworks of American poetry that is loved today all over the world. Whitman continued to edit and revise the collection of poetry until he died in 1892.

“It seems as fresh as if it was written last week,” Doty said about “Leaves of Grass.”

Whitman’s humanity also interests Doty. Whitman was a volunteer nurse during the Civil War.


“He was a person who had great hope for his country but also saw just how bad things could get,” Doty said.  


Doty has published eight books of poetry, including “School of the Arts,” “Source” and “My Alexandria.” He also has published four volumes of nonfiction prose, including “Dog Years,” a 2007 memoir about loss, love and the bond between Doty and his two dogs. “Dog Years” was a New York Times 2007 bestseller and winner of the 2008 American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award.

Doty’s poems have appeared in many magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, The London Review of Books, Ploughshares, Poetry and The New Yorker.

He is the only American poet to have won the T.S. Eliot Prize in the U.K. Doty also has received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.

Doty has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill and Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Mark Doty, a noted poet in his own right, will inspire those who come to his lecture to pick up Walt Whitman’s work and enjoy one of the most influential American poets,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, editor/publisher of the American Book Review and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences.

American Book Review Managing Editor Charles Alcorn also said audience members who come to the lecture are in for a treat.

“I’ve never seen a professor light up a lecture hall quite like Mark Doty,” he said. “He’s one of the most energetic, accessible poets on the contemporary scene, and his depth and breadth of knowledge of American canonical poets is amazing.”

The last writer scheduled for the Fall Reading Series is Antonya Nelson, who will come to UHV Nov. 20. She has published five short-story collections and three novels. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s and in anthologies such as “Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards” and “Best American Short Stories.”

Nelson was the recipient of the 2003 Rea Award for the Short Story (Lifetime Achievement) as well as National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships. Her books were named New York Times Notable Books for five years, and in 1999, The New Yorker called her one of the “20 young fiction writers for the new millennium.”

While in Victoria, the reading series authors attend roundtable discussions with UHV faculty and students, make classroom visits to area schools, give lectures open to the community, and go to receptions hosted by Friends of ABR patrons. Past speakers have included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Oshinsky, author and Iranian refugee Farnoosh Moshiri, Mexican American author Dagoberto Gilb and Pushcart Prize-winning critic and fiction writer Kim Herzinger.

ABR is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal that is published six times a year. It began in 1977, moved to UHV in 2006 and now has a circulation of about 8,000. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses and is supported in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call Alcorn at 361-570-4100.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler