Two of the epidemic's best poets offer new collections this month. Mark Doty's Source (HarperCollins) is filled with animals. The easy indulgence of such poetry would be to embalm each bird and beast as an emblem of human pathos, but Doty is after something deeper. Source is about the luxury of the survivor: to be able to look away from human putrefaction and death and instead revel in the menagerie of little brave and chattering familiars. Luxuries, hoarded and finally extended to the dead. Landscape With Human Figure (Duke University Press) by Rafael Campo is about not having the luxury to look away. An AIDS physician, Campo boldly defies the myth of the kind and courageous care giver. This is not stylish cynicism but a brave admission of his own limitations: He is made speechless by a dying man's gentle reproach: "You can't know how I feel." Just as often, Campo peers curiously into the dreamlife of his patients.
All Versed Up
December 1, 2001 • By Philip Huang