Doty, Mark (A.)
DOTY, Mark (A.)
Nationality: American. Born: Maryville, Tennessee, 10 August 1953. Education: University of Arizona, Tucson, 1970–71; Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, 1976–78, B.A. 1978; Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont, 1978–80, M.F.A. 1980. Family: Married1) Ruth Doty in 1971 (divorced 1980); 2) lived with Wally Roberts 1982–94 (died 1994); 3) has lived with Paul Lisicky since 1995. Career: Faculty member, Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont, 1985–90; faculty, M.F.A. Writing Program, Vermont College, 1981–94; guest faculty, Sarah Lawrence College, 1990–94; professor, creative writing program, University of Utah, 1996–98; since 1998 professor, creative writing program, University of Houston, Texas. Fannie Hurst Visiting Professor, Brandeis University, fall 1994; visiting faculty, graduate writing program, Columbia University, New York, and Sarah Lawrence College, spring 1996; visiting faculty, Writers Workshop, University of Iowa, fall 1995, fall 1996. Awards: Massachusetts Artists Foundation fellowship, 1985; Vermont Council on the Arts fellowship, 1986; Theodore Roethke prize, Poetry Northwest, 1986; Pushcart prize, 1987, 1989; James Wright prize, Mid-American Review, 1991; National Poetry Series publication, 1993, Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry, 1993, National Book Critics' Circle Award for best book of poetry, 1994, and T.S. Eliot Prize for best book of poetry published in the U.K., 1995, all for My Alexandria; Ingram Merrill Foundation award, 1994; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1994–95; Giles Whitney Foundation Award for Particularly Promising Writers, 1995; Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, 1995; Whiting Writers award, 1995; National Endowment for the Arts fellow, 1995–96; Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Poetry, 1996, and Boston Review Poetry prize, 1996, both for Atlantis; Witter Bynner Poetry prize, 1997; PEN/Martha Albrand Award for first book of nonfiction, 1997, for Heaven'sCoast; Cohen award for poetry, Ploughshares, 1998; Notable Book of the Year, American Library Association, 1998, and Books to Remember award, New York Public Library, 1999, both for Sweet Machine; Nonfiction Honor Book, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Book awards, American Library Association, 2000, for Firebird; Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Foundation fellowship, 2000–03. Agent: William Clegg, The Robbins Office, 405 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10022. Address: 19 Pearl Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts 02657, U.S.A.
Turtle, Swan: Poems. Boston, Godine, 1987.
Bethlehem in Broad Daylight. Boston, Godine, 1991.
My Alexandria. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1993; London, Cape Poetry, 1995.
Atlantis. New York, HarperCollins, 1995; London, Jonathan Cape, 1996.
Favrile. New York, Dim Gray Bar Press, 1997.
Sweet Machine. New York, HarperCollins, and London, Cape Poetry, 1998.
An Island Sheaf. New York, Dim Gray Bar Press, 1998.
Turtle, Swan, and Bethlehem in Broad Daylight: Two Volumes of Poetry. Urbana, Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Recordings: Mark Doty, Anne Newman Sutton Weeks poetry series, 1997; Mark Doty, Lannan Foundation, 1999.
Heaven's Coast: A Memoir. New York, HarperCollins, and London, Jonathan Cape, 1996.
White Kimono. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Enstar Press, 1997.
Firebird: A Memoir. New York, HarperCollins, and London, Jonathan Cape, 1999.*
Critical Studies: "The Poetry of August Kleinzahler and Mark Doty" by Helen Vendler, in The New Yorker (New York), 8 April 1996; "Creatures of the Rainbow: Wallace Stevens, Mark Doty, and the Poetics of Androgyny" by David R. Jarraway, in Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature (Canada), 30(3), September 1997; "Mercurial and Rhapsodic: Manifestations of the Gay Male Body in the Poetry of Mark Doty and Wayne Koestenbaum" by William Joseph Reichard, in The Humanities and Social Sciences (Ann Arbor, Michigan), 58(4), October 1997.* * *
Although the poet and memoirist Mark Doty includes gay themes and issues in his poetry, he has not been typecast as an exclusively gay poet. His poems, often lyrical and detailed, transcend the gay experience. He does sometimes write to other gay men because their experience, explains Doty, "often overlaps with mine." And he sometimes feels compelled to write about the gay experience because he believes that, for the most part, it is "stereotyped, misrepresented, falsely homogenized, or erased."
The volume Turtle, Swan (1987) contains poems about Doty's early life and shares his coming-of-age and young adulthood. In "A Replica of the Parthenon" he uses his memory of a book on archaeology to discuss the inevitability of death:
… we know that we will lie down in our own bodies and
someone will fold our hands …
"Rocket" and "In the Form of Snow" are based on experiences in jobs he had as a young man. "Hair" is a breathtaking account of a scene from a film shot at a concentration camp days after its liberation. Essentially the poem describes the shock of someone discovering his or her own mortality:
… Though her gesture is effortless
it seems also for the first time,
as if she has just remembered
that she has long hair, …
At a time the arms and hands
and face remember, the scalp
remembers that her hair
is a part of her, her own.
Following Turtle, Swan, Doty began to speak more directly on the gay experience. The books Bethlehem in Broad Daylight (1991), My Alexandria (1993), and Atlantis (1995) demonstrate his maturation as a man and as a poet. During this time Doty met his lover and partner Wally Roberts, who in 1994 died from AIDS. As Doty explained to Salon, "Before Wally's diagnosis, lots of my work had been about memory and trying to gain some perspective on the past. Suddenly that was much less important and I felt pushed to pay attention to now, what I could celebrate or discern in the now … There's no time to fool around." While some of the poems written during this period are unquestionably melancholic, Doty manages to speak of death without poisonous anger or grief so that readers are left with the essential beauty of love. "The Embrace" ends in this way:
Bless you. You came back so I could see you
once more, plainly, so I could rest against you
without thinking this happiness lessened anything,
without thinking you were alive again.
When Doty has been asked how he writes poetry, he explains that first he is presented with a metaphor, even though he does not always know what the image represents. He then begins to describe the image and decipher its meaning. In an interview in Lavender Magazine he pointed out, "My metaphors know more than I do. I begin with a description, and things float up from there."
For a time after the death of his partner Doty was unable to read or write poetry. Since then, however, he has published additional volumes of poetry, including Sweet Machine, and two volumes of memoirs. Doty is clearly striving to write about what preoccupies him at the present and to describe the common conditions of American life in our particular moment.
—Christine Miner Minderovic