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About this poet

In 1958, Tory Dent was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She received a bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1981 and a master's degree in creative writing at New York University.

She is the author of three volumes of poetry: Black Milk (Sheep Meadow Press, 2005), HIV, Mon Amour (1999), which won the 1999 James Laughlin Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and What Silence Equals (1993), the title taken from a slogan by the AIDS activist group Act Up.

Dent detailed her struggle with HIV in the vivid and unflinching poems of HIV, Mon Amour. About the book, Yusef Komunyakaa said, "This collection is a whirlpool of energy that seems to be reaching for cinematic clarity, driven by a need to confront modern psychology and ontology until there's a focus of certainty. Here's a map where ideas and experiences collide, and what rises out of the landscape underneath is a poetry that is painful and truthful, beautiful and terrifying, lyrical and narrative, always engaging the intellect and body politic."

Her honors include grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund; The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award; and three PEN American Center Grants for Writers with AIDS.

Her poetry appeared the anthologies Life Sentences (1994), The Exact Change Yearbook (1995), In the Company of my Solitude (1995), and Things Shaped in Passing (1997). An essay entitled “The Deferred Dream,” an excerpt from her memoir-in-progress, Many Rivers to Cross, appeared in the collection Bearing Life: Women’s Writings on Childlessness (ed. Rochelle Ratner, The Feminist Press, 2001).

Tory Dent also wrote art criticism for magazines including Arts, Flash Art, and Parachute, as well as catalogue essays for art exhibitions. She lived in New York City and Maine and died in December 2005.


Only my mouth taking you in, the greenery splayed deep green.

Within my mouth, your arm inserted, a stem of gestures, breaking gracefully.

Into each other we root arbitrarily, like bushes, silken, and guttural.

Palaver, we open for the thrill of closing, for the thrill of it: opening.

The night was so humid when I knelt on the steps, wet and cold, of prewar stone.

A charm bracelet of sorts we budded, handmade but brazen, as if organic.

I cannot imagine the end of my fascination, emblazoned but feather-white too.

The gold closure of this like a gold coin is, of course, ancient.

Why can't experience disseminate itself, be silken and brazen yet underwater?

A miniature Eiffel Tower, an enameled shamrock, a charm owned by its bracelet. 

From HIV, Mon Amour by Tory Dent, copyright © 1999 by Tory Dent. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Sheep Meadow Press.

From HIV, Mon Amour by Tory Dent, copyright © 1999 by Tory Dent. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Sheep Meadow Press.

Tory Dent

Tory Dent

Poet Tory Dent's second collection HIV, Mon Amour detailed her struggle with HIV and received the 1999 James Laughlin Award.

by this poet


for Thomas Nash, M.D.

Too many times have I with the sun on my back, flamboyant, heinously direct,
rocked, wrung hands, my shaking head refuged in a now-wet Bounty paper towel
or institutionalized inside the free-space of my bedroom that opens like a file
on my computer screen with that which I'm
Let us be apart then like the panoptical chambers in IC
patient X and patient Y, our names magic markered hurriedly on cardboard
and taped pell-mell to the sliding glass doors, "Mary", "Donald", "Tory";
an indication that our presence there would prove beyond temporary, like snow flurry.
Our health might be