A Swarm, A Flock, A Host: A Compendium of Creatures

By Mark Doty and Darren Waterston

A collaboration between a contemporary painter and an award-winning poet, this twenty-first-century bestiary is a spellbinding artistic meditation on the mystery and diversity of the animal kingdom.

A fine art portfolio edition of this volume, featuring 12 color aquatints, was commissioned by the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council—its first portfolio publication—and is in the museum’s collection of artist-illustrated books.

Originating in the Middle Ages, bestiaries were illuminated volumes that described various animals—some real, some mystical. The natural history and illustration of each beast were usually accompanied by a moral lesson. In this beautifully illustrated book, painter Darren Waterston and poet Mark Doty come together to breathe new life into the medieval genre. Waterston’s lush and haunting silhouettes depict species from insect and bird to mammal, captured in motion as they hunt their prey, build their nests, or protect their young. Accompanying the illustrations are Doty’s poetic observations on the animal world—its panoply of sounds and shapes, its dignity, and its cruelty. Lovers of art, animals, and poetry will delight in this elegant volume that captures nature’s exquisite and terrible beauty.


Mark Doty is the author of Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award in 2008, and Dog Years, a New York Times bestseller. His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, the Atlantic Monthly, and many other publications. A recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, he is the only American poet to have been awarded the T. S. Eliot Prize in the United Kingdom. Doty divides his time between New York City and Long Island.

Darren Waterston was born in California and received his BFA at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He continued his training in Germany, studying painting at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Münster. He was a recipient of the Richard C. Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship at the San Francisco Art Institute as well as the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship in Umbertide, Italy. Waterston’s paintings, watercolors, and murals have been exhibited internationally and reside in many collections, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Portland Art Museum; and the Seattle Art Museum. He lives and works in New York City.

Latest publications