There is very little biographical information available on Donald Britton; much of what I have written derives from a telephone interview with Dennis Cooper, who was both his publisher and a close friend both in New York and later in Los Angeles.
Donald Eugene Britton was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1951, the son of Cyrus E. Britton and Vera Early Britton. He received his B.A. and his M.A. in American literature (his 1976 master’s thesis was on a performance approach to Shakespeare) from the University of Texas at Austin (which has a scholarship fund named after him) and his Ph.D. in literary studies in 1979 from The American University, where he wrote his dissertation on Hart Crane’s poetics of praise. He lived in New York City for many years, working in advertising; in 1988 he moved from New York City to Los Angeles, where he worked as an executive at the advertising firm of Brierly and Partners. He died of AIDS on July 22, 1994.
In New York City Britton was associated with what has come to be known as the third generation of New York poets, many of them gay, among them Joe Brainard, Dennis Cooper, Douglas Crase, Tim Dlugos,* Kenward Elmslie, Brad Gooch, Steve Hamilton, and Bernard Welt. AIDS had a strong impact on this group: both Britton and Dlugos died of the disease, and the survivors have long since gone their separate ways.
Britton was not a prolific poet, and writing did not come easily to him; a self-deprecating perfectionist, he invested a great deal of time and labor in each poem. His poems appeared in Christopher Street, Epoch, and The Paris Review and in several smaller journals. They also appeared in the anthologies Coming Attractions: An Anthology of American Poets in Their Twenties, The Son of the Male