DOTY, MARK (1953- ) Mark Doty has written openly and passionately about being gay and about the personal grief he has felt in the AIDS epidemic, but his concerns and sensibility have never been confined by identity politics or by championing a particular group or movement, although such a poem as "Homo Does Not Inherit" (1995) is an unflinching indictment of religious homophobia. Like Marianne moore, an important influence, he responds to the natural world with a precision and discrimination that may include allegory or autobiography. In "Difference," from My Alexandria, a volume selected for the 1993 National Poetry Series, he writes about a jellyfish that looks like "a plastic purse swallowing itself," a description as odd and accurate as any of Moore's metaphors. Moreover his call at the end of the poem to look "unfettered" at "alien grace" suggests the moral, aesthetic, and personal terms that underlie Moore's poems. Nevertheless Doty's work contains sinuousness, a consolation, even a hedonism, not found in Moore. In his book-length essay, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon (2001), he points out that people are not "born knowing how to love the world," but, insofar as they do, it is because they have learned "that pleasure is to be honored" (5).
Born in Maryville, Tennessee, Doty moved frequently through the South, since his father, an army engineer, was repeatedly transferred. His mother was religious, and his poetry is often informed by the austerely grand eloquence of devotional literature. He attended Drake University in Iowa (B.A., 1978) and received an M.F.A. from Goddard College (1980). He has taught at many colleges and universities, including Brandeis University, the University of Utah, and the University of Houston. He has won the National Book Critics Circle Award (1994), the T. S. eliot Prize (1996), the Lambda Literary Award (1996), and the Ambassador Book Award (1996); he has also received a number of fellowships from various foundations. In addition to his poetry, Doty has published three work of prose: Heaven's Gate (1996), which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and Firebird (1999), both autobiographies, as well as Still Life with Oysters and Lemon. He has also published, under the pseudonym M. R. Doty, several verse collections written with his former wife.
While living in New York, Doty met Wally Roberts, with whom he lived until Roberts's death from aids. This experience of love, loss, and caregiving found voice in My Alexandria (1993), Doty's third book, whose touchstone is the poetry of C. F. Cavafy, Atlantis (1995), and his memoir Heaven's Gate (1996). In these works Doty searches for a means of transcending the mutability or decomposition of the world. In his more recent work, Sweet Machine (1998), he has sought ways to ground himself in the material world by enjoying quotidian experiences, such as a sidewalk turtle seller, and in Source (2001) he searches for the "generous, cold nothing" from which everything is derived.
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