Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Poet Passes

I awoke this morning to the first obituary of the new year.

It is complicated, but people who know me to different degrees may or may not know that I am fascinated by the passing of famous individuals. That may be an understatement, it may not. I may be unusual, or I may be like more people than I would think. Ever since dredging up Marie Curie's obituary written by Oppenheimer from the stacks of the University of Hawai'i Manoa library for a chemistry paper in 1985, obituaries fascinate me. As I mentioned last week about The New York Times Magazine's "Lives They Lived" issue, I can't help but read and learn and wonder.

Anyway, the New York poet Tory Dent died last Friday, December 30, from complications stemming from a nine-year bout with AIDS.

I never got to hear her read, although I wish I had.

Unlike the countless thousands who live with AIDS in silence, Ms. Dent turned it around and did what most poets would do: write about it. In fact, she gained even greater notice as a poet when her book HIV, Mon Amour won an award from the Academy of American Poets.

Many years ago, I found a copy of Ms. Dent's first book, What Silence Equals, signed, and with a notecard inside of it, written to the previous owner of the book. I re-read the card today at work and held the book lightly in my hands. It is not a particularly valuable item, from a monetary perspective, nor is it likely that it ever will be, but there is some deep weight that a book attains when the author has passed. There's a small bio of Ms. Dent here, with links to three of her poems.

Please take a moment to visit the site and read her words. They are somber yet graceful. And a reminder that AIDS may no longer be a death sentence for many, but it still strikes cruelly, and often, ripping brilliant lives out of the tapestry that is our world.

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