Nathan G. Tipton
In the preface to his final poetry collection West of Yesterday, East of Summer: New and Selected Poems, 1973–1993, Paul Monette admitted, somewhat wryly, “Of course I never wrote anything except about myself, but then it was all so serious and dark that it fairly stank with merit” (xi). Monette is indeed best known for his trenchantly honest autobiographical memoirs Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir (1988) and Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (1992), yet his fictional work and his poetry collections are also filled with what David Román considers “Monette’s own relentless commitment to leave a testimony of how gay men have lived and loved” (272). Even though Monette began his writing career as a poet, this testimonial commitment can be seen more clearly in his six novels, all of which treat gay themes such as fixing a secure gay identity in the face of familial and societal pressures. The passionate, agonized, stridently righteous anger that informs his poetry (and, later, his memoirs) developed fully in the 1980s, concurrent with the rise of the AIDS epidemic.
Paul Monette was born on October 16, 1945, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, but was raised in nearby Andover. He received a scholarship to Phillips Academy, a tony prep school in Andover, and after graduation attended Yale University. At Phillips, Monette dabbled with poetry, which he later dismissed as “wince-making rhymes and Arcadian locutions” (Becoming a Man 87). Nevertheless, at Yale he continued to write and experiment with poetic forms, publishing two multipart poems in the March 1965 issue of The Serpent’s Tooth, a residential college literary magazine on whose editorial board Monette served. Several poems that were later included in his 1975 collection The Carpenter at the Asylum first appeared in the prestigious Yale Literary Review. Monette was also chosen to write
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Publication information: Book title: Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights:An A-to-Z Guide. Contributors: Emmanuel S. Nelson - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 323.
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