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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Good Work, Sloggers

Posted by on Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 12:31 PM

Remix in comments flagged an important clue about the author of the Ricin Letters. The line...

letterlinepoem.jpg from a poem, "A Display of Mackerel", from a collection by poet Mark Doty. The poem appeared in Atlantis, a 1996 collection of poems that Doty wrote after the HIV-related death of his partner in 1994.

They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:

So whoever wrote the letter knows—and plagiarizes—his gay poets.

More from Doty's wiki page:

In 1989, his partner Wally Roberts tested positive for HIV, which drastically changed Doty's writing. Roberts's death in 1994 inspired Doty to write Atlantis, and Heaven's Coast: A Memoir also deals with this subject. In 1995, he won the ₤10,000 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, the first American poet to have done so.

markdoty.jpgHe has written twelve books of poetry and three memoirs. Firebird told the story of his childhood in the American South and in Arizona. Dog Years was a memoir of the lives of two of his dogs who Doty had while dealing with the death of his lover and the devastation of 9-11. Louise Erdrich praised the book as being "about dogs, that is to say, about everything we cannot talk about... the 'unsayable' about our relationships with animals, and about unspeakable times of loss, Dog Years is not a dark book. It is illuminated from within by gorgeous wonder." Dog Years is the winner of the 2008 American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award. His last book of poetry Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems won the 2008 National Book Award for poetry.


Comments (58) RSS

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Excellent, you fell for my plot. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!
Posted by Emperor Palpatine on January 7, 2009 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Posted by @ on January 7, 2009 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Maybe Mark Doty is the ricin fiend?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on January 7, 2009 at 12:42 PM · Report this
Wow. That's is pretty telling.

I thought this was Angry Straight Guy and now I'm not so sure.

Posted by Bruce Garrett on January 7, 2009 at 12:42 PM · Report this
I hope this isn't the beginning of some wild scavenger-hunt style chase wherein the feds find the next "clue" buried in a display of mackerel at the Pike Place Market. Or some such ridiculousness.

Posted by meg on January 7, 2009 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Hopefully the FBI has Google.
Posted by DOUG. on January 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Note also that the spelling, punctuation, and usage in the letter is impeccable, nearly flawless. Two things are clearly British: "in hospital" and using a proper en dash with a space on either side for a dash (the author used a Crtl+- to produce the en dash, too, not a simple hyphen). This is a well educated person who not only reads gay-themed poetry but who also knows the intimate ins and outs of writing and copy editing and how to use control keystrokes in MS Word to produce typographically correct punctuation.
Posted by Simac on January 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM · Report this
There's always someone, somewhere with a big nose.
Posted by who knows on January 7, 2009 at 12:49 PM · Report this
@7 or he did a double -- and Word auto changed it to an en dash. My god, he uses Microsoft products in Seattle. That narrows it down!
Posted by Al on January 7, 2009 at 12:58 PM · Report this
I think it's some stupid queen that seroconverted while on a meth binge. I know that sounds hateful, but...
Posted by PDH on January 7, 2009 at 1:00 PM · Report this
can we get over the whole, "they must be british!" theory already? it's been mention fiftyeleven times already (not only here, but in the seattle times comments as well)
Posted by mike on January 7, 2009 at 1:03 PM · Report this
but yeah, i feel like this is turning into a scooby doo mystery. if it wasn't for you pesky gays...
Posted by mike on January 7, 2009 at 1:06 PM · Report this
British or juvenile pretentious gay.....remember somewhere around high school/freshman year in college when you thought you were being smart or cool by spelling Color "Colour".

Could just be a methy bitter gay guy who hasn't grown out of that "if I spell/use British phrases I'll seem smarter!" stage.
Posted by Jason on January 7, 2009 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Anyone heard from Mark Finley's stalker lately?
Posted by wafflecone on January 7, 2009 at 1:07 PM · Report this
that's really obscure. but it will help the po find this big talking asshole. they aren't really up on gay poetry.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 7, 2009 at 1:07 PM · Report this
Somebody check with this guy.
Posted by elenchos on January 7, 2009 at 1:09 PM · Report this
#8 is right! Morrissey did it! Big Mouth Strikes again!
Posted by I'm ok, You're ok on January 7, 2009 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Anyhow, that's an en dash where it really should be an em dash. Is using an en dash there British?
Posted by leek on January 7, 2009 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Fantastic piece of detective work, Slog.
Posted by This Is Good! on January 7, 2009 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Maybe the poisoner will set up clues throughout the hill for the big pub crawl?

"A wig and a monocle! It can only mean one thing: the baron did it!"
Posted by AJ on January 7, 2009 at 1:12 PM · Report this
N.B.: Is there a theater in town that doesn't spell itself "theatre"?
Posted by Amelia on January 7, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
@16: Holy Scrappy Doo.
Posted by AJ on January 7, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Slog didn't find this, Remix did. Anybody who claims this for "we" is full of crap. Oh, and gay poetry lovers, we're on to you.
Posted by Fnarf on January 7, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Just to add to CSI:Seattle.

Thomas Leahy was arrested in 1997 in Wisconsin for shooting his stepson in the face.

"According to authorities, the amount (.67 grams) and purity (4.1 percent) of the ricin in Leahy's possession was enough to kill approximately 125 people."…
Posted by Monty on January 7, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Um... so has anybody passed this observation on to the cops yet? Because somebody probably should.
Posted by rhymer on January 7, 2009 at 1:17 PM · Report this
It's all a viral marketing campaign for Pepsi.
Posted by Banna on January 7, 2009 at 1:24 PM · Report this
@16 yeah for reals. My first thought was that the culprit would be all over the media comment boards soaking up the reaction, that's really the sole purpose for the letters (assuming the likely scenario that they don't have the will or means to carry out the threats). I believe the culprit has written at least several comments in various threads by now, particularly on slog (The Stranger was one of the letter recipients after all).
Posted by hazies81 on January 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
MS Word corrects two hyphens to an em dash, not an en dash. The writer used an en dash.

In U.S. English we style a dash as an em dash with no spaces (usually), and in British English they style a dash as an en dash with spaces. (The NYT uses the British style, however.)
Posted by Simac on January 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Did James Hartline relocate to Seattle?
Posted by The One Who Knows All on January 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Dan, in regards to your earlier post, do you think it is possible that this is a family member or close friend of a gay person? Who presumably watched them spiral out of control on meth and sex only to die from a STD or drug overdose?
Posted by amyl on January 7, 2009 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Wow! Hats off to Remix! I want to play the guessing game based on what Remix found now:

Educated, progressively worsening untreated alcoholic on the far side of middle age finally gets permanently 86'ed by manager of favorite watering hole. Drinking at home, sulkily reading poetry, refusing to accept that own actions led to the ban, alky decides to send anonymous ricin letter to bar manager. Brainstorm: sends to ten other places also, as camouflage.
Posted by tomasyalba on January 7, 2009 at 1:35 PM · Report this
In other words, He is Among Us (boo)
Posted by hazies81 on January 7, 2009 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Simac: Actually, Word corrects two hyphens with spaces on either side to an en dash, and two hyphens between words with no spaces to an em dash. But yeah.

Re British style, thanks! Good to know.
Posted by leek on January 7, 2009 at 1:42 PM · Report this
Er... in light of recent developments I would like to revise the remark I made last night

"the bad poetry aspect ("no salve for their unbearable pain", don't care that they're dead -- and almost frozen! -- just like they didn't care when they were alive, yadda yadda) makes me think pretentious, emotionally disturbed local"

to read "the plagiarized poetry aspect." Sorry about that.
Posted by casseia on January 7, 2009 at 1:43 PM · Report this
That's no ordinary ricin queen--that's J.K. Simmons!
Posted by NapoleonXIV on January 7, 2009 at 1:49 PM · Report this
@28, 33... the dashes used (en or em) here are not so much a question of British vs. American as it is AP style vs. Chicago or MLA. AP style uses the en dashes because em dashes couldn't be transmitted over the newswire. And, according to the Bible--I mean, the Chicago Manual of Style--an em dash really should be surrounded by a 1/4 space. But fortunately we don't have to use typewriters anymore, and we have essentially traded the delights of word processing for the 1/4 space.

God, I'm a nerd.
Posted by lily on January 7, 2009 at 1:56 PM · Report this
I hate to say I told you so, but...
Posted by ap0kryphus on January 7, 2009 at 2:03 PM · Report this
Googling "no antidote no salve" gets you another poem at DeviantArt:…

The subject of this (not particularly good) poem is rejected love, as Dan posited.
Posted by inkweary on January 7, 2009 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Writing sample analysis from Blue Centauri Writing Sample Analyzer:
Number of Sentences: 9
Words Per Sentence: 17.11
Characters Per Word: 4.57
Flesch Reading Ease: 72.46
Fog Scale Level: 10.22
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 7.4
Posted by ap0kryphus on January 7, 2009 at 2:17 PM · Report this
Ladies and gentlemen of a resilient race, of all the factors contributing to the demise of the Black race, HIV/AIDS as a mass killer, may be the most preventable because the transmission is through a behavior of choice. One can simply choose not to be exposed. Unlike other areas in health where Blacks are dying in large numbers, there is no bypass surgery available and eating more fiber will not do much. Please make every effort to secure your health and that of your loved ones by taking the responsibility of modifying your own behavior. AIDS is not a gay disease, AIDS is not a white disease, AIDS is not a disease of arbitrary genetic coding (as far as we know). AIDS is now your disease; it is your brothers� and your sisters� and your bothers and sisters on the Afrikan Continent. There is no antidote, no salve, no fade no cream or vaccine, but there is prevention. The power of prevention is in your hands. Use it wisely.

Posted by ap0kryphus on January 7, 2009 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Someone isn't dealing with their new HIV+ status very well.
Posted by monkey on January 7, 2009 at 2:26 PM · Report this
@38 I tried to google that line too, but to no avail. The link you posted seems to be gone now..?
Posted by remix on January 7, 2009 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Yeah, well, if you go to the google cache of smilesandsutures over at deviant art (@42 & @38), you get a poem that reads:

"Do you feel me in your cells? That pressure in your vein? Do you feel the nagging itch That edges right through pain? You thought I was curable. You'd forget me with a pill. But looks like I'm not leaving, And I think I never will. Charming like bacteria, That has suffered your onslaught. I'm now invulnerable To everything you've got. Inject your poison in me Try any method you please
I'll keep gnawing your insides: Your dirty, heartsick disease. Remember that you caused this, when you lay yourself to sleep. Remember you destroyed me,"
Posted by Jeffrey in Chicago on January 7, 2009 at 2:53 PM · Report this
I wonder who checked out that book from the public library recently?

The NSA already knows.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 7, 2009 at 2:53 PM · Report this
@42 It has been removed in the last few minutes. The blogger "of smiles and sutures" has another poems dealing with disease and infection as well. I wonder why the other got deleted so quickly?
Posted by inkweary on January 7, 2009 at 2:57 PM · Report this
A crazed shooter a few years ago had posted a first-person-shooter game on Newgrounds before his act. Wouldn't be surprising this poet had a blog somewhere. DeviantArt has its fair share of queer Nazis.
Posted by Sirkowski on January 7, 2009 at 3:15 PM · Report this
It'd be kind of funny if sloggers actually solve this.

If it weren't for you meddlesome kids....
Posted by NapoleonXIV on January 7, 2009 at 3:17 PM · Report this
@43, Now the poem you listed has been removed, leaving only the one below. I wonder if the writer "smilesandsutures" is reading the Slog?
She claims to be female and there is a photo of a girl but it could be anybody.

X's and O's on the paper
back stabs and lies inside

Brutal in your affection
Savage, the side you hide

Stupid, what I offered
You led me by the hand

Sacrifice for your darkness
Bled into the sand

Time, it heals all wounds
But my stitches still itch

You are beyond horrible
And love is such a bitch
Posted by inkweary on January 7, 2009 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Ironically 'A Display of Mackerel' is my favourite poem from that collection.
Posted by Danielle on January 7, 2009 at 3:26 PM · Report this
Ref @48 I take it back, the photos in the blog indicate female.
Posted by inkweary on January 7, 2009 at 3:39 PM · Report this
I'm really in love with the copywriting/typography nerdiness in this thread.
Posted by meeps on January 7, 2009 at 3:49 PM · Report this
Umm, another clue, who can name eleven gay bars?
Posted by Bush is almost gone on January 7, 2009 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Whoever he/she is, "smilesandsutures" is a real master of the teenage-gothic-I'm-so-dark genre of poetry.
Posted by missymiss on January 7, 2009 at 4:42 PM · Report this
@52: anyone with google.
Posted by paisami on January 8, 2009 at 12:04 PM · Report this
this does not surprise me a bit
...good attention folks

Posted by upaboveitall on January 9, 2009 at 10:54 AM · Report this
why wasnt Changes on Wallingford targeted since they were going after gay bars?
Posted by TTH on January 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM · Report this
@21: Yes, a few; Seattle Public Theater among them.

@52: pretty much the 11 bars match what comes up in a capitol hill search for gay bar. Also the addresses sans manager names are there on yelp. You have to zoom out the map and hit redo to catch Changes or any others. I agree that someone who'd send a copy to the stranger is doubtlessly trolling here. @47 The mystery machine gang can X-ref yelp users with repeat sloggers and get a decent list going, no? Hugo House membership for the poetry angle. @51 Former or current newspaper employee for the typography nerdiness. Attention whore. Spurned gay or gay curious. Stricken with HIV? Who knows.

Posted by RevSmith on January 10, 2009 at 3:44 AM · Report this
Photo of turnout for Seattle DOMA Protest - 10:40 am Jan/ 10th - Photo by AndyBodies…
Posted by Robert Patrick on January 10, 2009 at 10:45 AM · Report this

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