“Bleak,” he said. What about the poem where he plays with himself? Actually it’s called “Making Love to Myself”. And it is poignant — which is not the same as “bleak.” Indeed in his introduction, Mark Doty devotes considerable space to this poem. He sums up for me something that my friend who cried “bleak” perhaps overlooks — the soothing aura of elegy:
Earlier, I called “Making Love to Myself” a proto-elegy. I’d like to suggest that it provides a sort of template for the sorts of poems that gay men were compelled to write a decade later, when the epidemic began to send a generation of lovers irrevocably to the Laramies of Elysium. It’s an elegiac mode that recognizes and identifies the difficult territory where eros and grief overlap, where tenderness is charged with physical fellow-feeling, where the absence of the body is inscribed as a charm for and an evocation of the vanished and lingering soul.
Bleak is the wrong word. Wrong for five reasons: 1) too short 2) too close in association with “blank” 3) it pecks at the poem from an outside perspective like a cruel beak 4) sadness is not the same as depression 5) i once gathered a number of poems under the title Tracking the Rememberance of Touch long before I found a kindred spirit in James L. White and The Salt Ecstasies (where “Making Love to Myself” can be found) and it takes a certain boldness to as the French say “afficher”.
My how feisty we have grown… Time to modulate and review what we wrote about Anne Carson and Paul Monette.
And so for day 976