What Silence Equals

Overview

The "brilliant and challenging" (Library Journal) exploration of living with HIV by the winner of the 1999 James Laughlin Award.

First published in 1993, this virtuosic collection defined writing about AIDS for a generation of poets. Chaotic and incantatory, it is a submersion into the railing consciousness of a young woman on the precipice of mortality, its "dazzling and valiant poemsÂ…the psalms of our ...
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Overview

The "brilliant and challenging" (Library Journal) exploration of living with HIV by the winner of the 1999 James Laughlin Award.

First published in 1993, this virtuosic collection defined writing about AIDS for a generation of poets. Chaotic and incantatory, it is a submersion into the railing consciousness of a young woman on the precipice of mortality, its "dazzling and valiant poemsÂ…the psalms of our present moment" (Sharon Olds).
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Editorial Reviews

Eileen Myles
Tory Dent charts her own waters. She's a poet of brilliance and shadows.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The subject of Dent's admittedly autobiographical first collection is intriguing: these are the poems of a woman suffering from AIDS. While several books have appeared from the male perspective and women have contributed poems to anthologies, this ought to be a landmark volume. Such weight only makes the book's shortcomings more disastrous. Emotion is barely detectable. Dent's long lines are chopped-up prose, and even as prose they'd be boring: ``So the ignorant stumbled out of bliss as stockbrokers did in '29 / their limbs wriggling the way a spider descends / into a void of volition. . . .'' Even poems written to such tunes as Jimmy Cliff's ``Many Rivers to Cross'' or Percy Sledge's ``At the Dark End of the Street'' bear no traces of lyricism. Imagery is sparse and predictable: eyes ``sparkle like zircon diamonds,'' clouds are ``tearful,'' lips are ``zipped together.'' Large words are thrown in seemingly to no other purpose than to prove the poet's superiority to her readers: ``noyade,'' ``mullocky,'' ``metalanguage,'' ``apheliotropically.'' Inverted grammar lends a stilted quality. An attenuated introduction by Sharon Olds ( The Father ) does little more than quote from the book itself. (Dec.)
Library Journal
It may be a disservice to say this poet writes about AIDS--a topic that can subsume the artistic endeavor--but Dent seems to thrive on difficulty. These poems are intelligent and alive, emanating not from what the author terms ``the negative state of my positiveness'' but from the vertiginous cavern's edge: they are not poems about a disease but weather reports from an existential state. A mostly unrhymed hexameter line allows her to move from ballade to song lyric to satire without rupturing the book's texture. Bitter, bawdy, and sad, recalling the verse of medieval outlaw poet Francois Villon, to whom the title poem is dedicated, these are, unmistakably, love poems of our time: ``the way the gross anatomy of lovemaking gives way to its interiority,/ bends supple as if broken already beneath the weighty implosion.'' A brilliant and challenging first collection in which the writing only occasionally spins out of control.-- Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892551965
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Tory Dent (d. 2005) is the author of three volumes of poetry. Her writing appeared in numerous periodicals, including Agni, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Fence; and many anthologies, among them In the Company of My Solitude (Persea, 1995), and Things Shaped in Passing (Persea, 1997).
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Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Words Aren't Cheap 13
Spared 15
Apology to the Doctor 17
What Silence Equals 19
The Mind vs. the Brain 21
At the Dark End of the Street 22
Accidental Poetry 26
Only Human 28
The Murder of Beauty/The Beauty of Murder 32
Poems in American Sign Language 34
Let 36
Walking Away I 44
Walking Away II 45
Walking Away III 46
from A Two-Way Mirror 49
Listen 54
Square One 56
Beyond Belief 60
Death as a Material 61
Caught in Your Own Reaching 63
Ash 64
Many Rivers to Cross 67
Eternal Snow 72
Variations 74
Jade 76
Poem for a Poem 84
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