As a child, Mark Doty often moved with his family (his father was a civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers). During his high school years in Tucson, Arizona, encouraged by poet Richard Shelton, Doty began to consider poetry seriously. He has said that he believes such mentoring is crucial to a beginning poet’s development. Certainly Shelton and his household introduced Doty to an artistic world that was otherwise unavailable to him.
Doty received a B.A. from Drake University, in Des Moines, Iowa, where he also taught for a year. During this time, uncertain how to deal with his sexual orientation, he was married for a short time. He also began to publish poetry, although he later repudiated his earliest volumes as being both immature and untrue to his still-closeted identity. (He now considers his earliest book to be Turtle, Swan.) After he was divorced, he moved to Manhattan, where he fell in love with Wally Roberts, a window dresser for a department store. The two remained together for the rest of Roberts’s life. During this time, Doty worked part time on an M.F.A. in creative writing from Goddard College in Montpelier, Vermont, where he and Roberts later lived for a time and renovated an old house. Doty later taught at Goddard.
Turtle, Swan was published by Godine in 1987. Early reviews praised its quiet tone in presenting the gay experience in terms of the general human experience, which includes suffering....
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