Dodge Poet Spotlight: Catherine Doty

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Welcome back to our blog series on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.

Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.

Without further ado, Dodge Poet and one of the poets reading as a part of Open Doors 2013 on Thursday, October 17 at WBGO in Newark, Catherine Doty.

Photo Credit: Lauren Rutten

When did you first discover poetry?  What poets made you want to write poetry?
As a kid, I had a precocious love of words. Even words whose meanings I didn’t yet know resonated with me texturally or rhythmically. Some mild synesthesia lent certain words flavor, color or weight as well. When words began to line up and make sense, I was drawn to drama, mystery, and anything incantatory or playful. My mother, who had always read poetry to me, allowed me to paw through her big British-and-American anthology searching for pieces that gave me goosebumps. Yeats was my favorite. I loved and imitated him, as I did Gerard Manley Hopkins and (different book) Dr. Seuss.

Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved.  He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.”  What great poem are you proud of having written?
I am especially proud of having written Isabella Gardner’s “The Widow’s Yard,” Anthony Hecht’s “It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It,” and Peter Murphy’s “The Desire.”

What is your favorite place to read?
I find that doctors’ waiting rooms and Superbowl parties are excellent reading spots, but a secluded, well-upholstered, over-pillowed couch is best, especially if it is dog-or-catted.

Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions that are part of your writing practice.
My mother once declared me useless after 9 PM, and whether this declaration was a helpful insight or a flat-out curse, it remains true to this day. I write best at dawn, which, somehow, is when I am clearest, kindest, happiest and most insightful. Sadly, few people are eager to interview, date or make coffee for anyone before 5 AM.

What are your favorite writing tools?  Paper or computer?  Are there special brands, papers, pens, etc. that are important to you?
I’ve always loved a black Bic pen and a yellow legal pad for the first few drafts of a poem. When the draft develops a discernible heartbeat, I move to the computer and play with line break. I also like starting new pieces on scrap paper or the backs of old quizzes for the pentimento effect.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
“Me, too” is my favorite response to “I write poems.” I usually reserve “I’m a poet” for situations in which prose writers are being directed to one table and poem writers to another…I’m not sure why.


Mischief made her lift her arms and turn
with such a look of wonder on her face
that I was not afraid to see the flames
licking along both sleeves of her flannel robe,
but stepped back, as one does from an act
of God, the better to take in her glittering
pale green eyes, her pirate’s nose, the few
yellow teeth in her little open mouth
as my mother, her own mouth open
in a scream, rushed up behind her to yank
off the blazing robe and dance on its burning,
and Grandma, naked, triumphant, winked at me
while the kettle shrieked its way to boiling dry,
and sent me from some far hilltop in her far world
a sneak peek at what it was likely I’d become:
wild-eyed and crazy and blazing like a six-gun,
nothing at all to be met with shame or fear.
So this is for her, who now has long been ash,
another small poem the last word of which is oh.

-Catherine Doty

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