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Mark Doty Portrait

Born in Tennessee, the son of an army engineer, Mark Doty has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the M.F.A. Program at Vermont College, the University of Utah, and The University of Houston. He now teaches at Rutgers University. In addition to his poetry, he is the author of a 1981 critical study of James Agee and of Heaven's Coast (1996), a memoir of his partner Wally Roberts's death from AIDS. Frightened by his emerging sexual identity, Doty married hastily at age eighteen but was divorced after graduating from Drake University in Iowa. While a temporary office worker in Manhattan, he studied creative writing at Goddard College. He also met Roberts, a department store window dresser, and lived with him for twelve years. While Doty has written about a variety of urban subjects, the specificity and variety of his poems about gay life——with their frankness, their substantial cultural resonance, their wit, their political insight, and their metaphoric inventiveness——make them his major contribution to American poetry to date. He did not, however, so much start out to write political poetry as to write about his own life, but the life of a gay man in America proved political. Doty has a rich and complex relation to the work of several other American poets, including Hart Crane. In Crane's case, one might say that Doty has set out to write the poems Crane himself could not have written in his own time.