Mark Doty: "It's especially ugly for these words to be used against gay men."
by Dan Savage
on Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 3:26 PM
A sentence written by poet and author Mark Doty appeared verbatim in the threatening letter sent to 11 gay bars in Seattle.
"This is just repellent," Mark Doty writes in an email. "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."
You can read Doty's poem, "A Display of Mackerel," here. And to make a little more good come of this ugly incident, take this opportunity to purchase and readDog Years, Doty's bestselling memoir.