My first question before reading this ‘poem’ so to speak, was how a collection of six lengthy poems could make a whole, unified body of work. While there were observable unifying factors, i.e his use of liminal space and couplets/tercets, the development of his emotions and view of the same situation through the six poems is what allows the reader to perceive the body of work as one.
One idea that marks the beginning and end of his ’emotional’ journey in a sense is the recurring symbol of dogs, present in Faith and New dog, the first and last poem in the series. A dog, commonly refered to mans best friend, is known to (unfortunately) have a lifespan much shorter than humans, which leads to the eventual loss of a life they valued massively. This in some ways parrallels Mark Doty’s sitiuation, as his loved one, Wally, is diagnosed with AIDS, which means that their time together is limited. He marks his journey to accept loss in the first and final poem, as in Faith, his fears of losing his partner Wally manifest themself in his dreams, as images of losing their dog Arden. This fear is seen to evolve into a sort of acceptance, in the last poem, new dog. In some sense, it communicates his acceptance of a future that might not necessarily involve the one he loves, but still places great importance in his being.
The entire collection of poems makes use of liminal space, i.e the space between lines, to allude to the state of the narrator and his surroundings. In ‘reprieve’ for example, liminal space is used to represent Wally being neither alive nor dead, a state of ‘in between that is inescapable. This is more directly depicted in the description of Wally in a tunnel of sorts, seeing the light ahead but choosing not to approach it yet. This is also paralleled with the symbol of ‘dreams’ in both the first and second poems. A dream can be seen as a state between one being in between sleeping and being awake, and in reprieve, he refers to the situation he experienced with Wally being in critical condition as a dream. This could be a reference to him feeling as if he was in a transitional state, and losing Wally meant him losing a constant that kept him away from that state. We could also extrapolate the metaphor to the larger body of work, as ‘Atlantis’ seems to be a recollection of how his emotions evolved during this period where there was no solid answer as to what would happen.