Mark Doty Hub

Walt Whitman for Levi's


Of course, another wonderful gay poet, Mark Doty, took note of this.

And here's an explanation:

"In the first Leaves of Grass he introduced two ingredients thus far unknown to American poetry, at least as directly and significantly as they appeared in Whitman: sex and jobs. The first was inspired by Emerson and the transcendentalists, who said that all nature was an emblem of spirit, or God. If so, why not celebrate sex, which was a part of nature? The second was the American pastime for work. The work of the average: the lawyer, the laborer, the seamstress, the mother, the brother, the sister, even the Irish prostitute. Whitman celebrates what he calls 'the Divine Average' -- probably the most wonderful oxymoron democracy ever produced. ... The poet reasoned that if -- according to transcendentalist doctrine -- everyone was divine because nature was emblematic of God, then all were equal, politically equal, including women, whom Whitman treated equally with men...This idea of equality and self-divinity also meant that one could celebrate himself or herself. And so the first poem of the first edition of Leaves of Grass began: 'I celebrate myself [and sing myself] / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.'"

SF North Beach Cafe Owner Tells Poet Mark Doty: Get Lost, Faggot

Poet Mark Doty describes an incident over the weekend in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood in which he and his partner, the writer Paul Lisicky, were taking an after-dinner stroll when Doty involved himself in an altercation between two drivers on the street. The woman he had scolded parked her car, came after him, and then crossed the street into a business  to emerge with a group of four big men who began pursuing them. Doty and Lisicky took refuge in a restaurant that to their misfortune happened to be owned by one of the thugs coming after them.

Macaroni  Doty writes: "And suddenly, as if a trapdoor has opened in the evening and we've landed in a scene from The Sopranos, two guys enter the restaurant, two more are posted just outside the door, and I've got an angry middle-aged guy in a black shirt with flowers on it standing in front of me and he's not happy. I cannot narrate our conversation here, as it's all a jumble in my head. He's threatening (not necessarily in his words but his stance and tone), he's telling me to get out, but I'm not about to walk out onto that sidewalk with these weird entourage bodyguard types standing there, I'm saying I'm going to call the police. Then the strangest thing: he takes my arms and he says, 'Even though you are who you are, you gotta think twice before you talk to somebody.' I have no idea what this means. Does 'who you are' mean gay man, middle-class man, entitled person? No idea. The guy's telling me to get out of his restaurant, and somehow I make it clear that I will not leave with those men at the door, and they move over, and out we go, with a barrage of insults behind us -- 'The Castro's on the east side of town, get out of the neighborhood, twinkletoes, get lost faggot' and so on."

Even Though You Are Who you Are [mark doty]

Seattle Ricin Gay Bar Terrorist Also a Plagiarist [tr]
Mark Doty wins National Book Award for Poetry [tr]

Seattle Ricin Gay Bar Terrorist Also a Plagiarist

Yesterday morning I posted about the threat in Seattle made by an unknown terrorist to eleven of the city's gay bars, threatening to poison their patrons with the potentially deadly agent Ricin. There have been developments.

Ricinletter2Yesterday afternoon, Dan Savage at Slog posted the second Ricin letter, the one that was sent to the offices of The Stranger. Earlier yesterday, Dan Savage guessed the letters were written by a gay man.

Wrote Savage: "The letters strike me as having been written by a very bitter man—by someone who came out, expected that gay life would a glorious cycle of song, and was shocked to discover that gay life—just like straight life—comes with no guarantees. In the years after coming out he learned that some people, gay and straight, can be assholes; that gay men were not, despite the hype, his 'brothers.' I wouldn't be surprised if this person had a meth problem and a string of failed relationships. He's someone who has probably, through the choices he's made, succeeded in making a complete hash of his life. But he doesn't want to take responsibility for his choices so he blames gay people in general, and gay life, and the bars, and pins his personal failures on the 'community.'"

DogyearsThen, a slog commenter noticed that some of the phrasing in the letters was taken directly from a poem by gay poet Mark Doty (who recently won a National Book Award) from his book Dog Years. Here's the poem in full.

Doty wrote Slog: "This is just repellent. On the literal level, my poem is about looking at fish on ice in the grocery store, and wondering if they could be called individuals. But I wrote in '94, in the crisis years of the epidemic, and so I was really thinking about mortality. I was trying to imagine some way to make the loss of those we love seem even temporarily bearable. So I was thinking about what it means to 'have' a self, to be a self, when selfhood is something we lose. I was trying to console myself and others, at least a little, for all we'd endured. So, it's especially ugly for these words to be used against gay men. Writers have no control over what people do with their words, but this is as far from my intention as you could get."

Doty echoes those thoughts, and adds to them, on his own blog.

Police are investigating and bar owners and patrons are showing solidarity. The pouring will go on.

Mark Doty wins National Book Award for Poetry

Poet Mark Doty has won the National Book Award for his collection Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems.

DotyIn an interview about his nomination, Doty said, "I feel completely thrilled—I’m in wonderful company, and it’s particularly satisfying to me because my nominated book is a ‘New and Selected’ poems, so it’s 20 years worth of work. To have that volume singled out feels like a kind of affirmation of what I’ve been busying myself with for the last two decades, so I’m delighted."

He also talked about his newer work: "In these new poems, I found myself turning over notions that have always been at the fore for romantic poets: the nature of beauty, the nature of the soul, how love exists in time. I’m always thinking about beauty as a subject—that contested, difficult, fascinating ground that’s so important to me. So I wrote a poem in which I proposed a little theory of beauty. It was about the unlikely circumstance of looking at a prison tattoo on a man’s shoulder and realizing that it was quite an awkward looking thing, but it became beautiful when someone explained what it represented—it was a sign language character. This is beauty that is emerging out of knowledge. But there was more to say about kinds of beauty."

The other 2008 award winners were Fiction: Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library), Nonfiction: Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton & Company), Young People's Literature: Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic).

Doty is the author of many books of poetry as well as several prose works including Dog Years and the beautiful memoir Heaven's Coast.

Doty reading his poem "Charlie Howard's Descent" at the Split This Rock Poetry festival in Washington D.C., AFTER THE JUMP...

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