My Alexandria

I think Mark Doty’s collection was one of the first books I read by a gay poet as a gay literary work. As in, I didn’t read it and find out later he was gay, and I felt like the poems were constructed in and because of a gay identity.

It came into my life at an important moment, although I wouldn’t understand its significance for some time–probably not until I read Cavafy, who Doty references with this title (and who I also love). I was feeling isolated then, and feeling like I had to present queer poems to my mostly heterosexual peers in such a way that they were nonthreatening and, well, kind of funny. (Not their issue; it was clearly my own internalized stuff.)

This book felt then like a kind of artifact, and I don’t mean that disparagingly, in that it was old or outmoded. It felt like something that contained a great deal of knowledge and value, something that needed discovery. It’s really the last section that I continue to inhabit now, even as I have gone on and explored the ways in which gay perspectives and experience can be included in my work.

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