A Display of Mackerel

| Dots & Dashes

In the classroom, many of my writing prompts focus on imitation, on the act of engaging in a conversation with our literary predecessors and contemporaries. I preach the idea that poets should be permeable, that our poems should show the influences of what we’re reading, because I practice it in my own work.

For instance, Mark Doty’s “A Display of Mackerel,” a poem I often teach, led me to write “A Row of Ribbons,” which will appear in Dots & Dashes. I love the way Doty’s description of mackerel laid out on ice at a grocery store leads to reflection (and revelation) about identity, what happens when we give up our individuality for the comforts of the collective. You can also watch Mark Doty read his extraordinary poem here.