Poet, essayist, and art critic Tory Dent was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and earned her BA from Barnard College and MFA from New York University. Her collections of poetry include What Silence Equals (1993); HIV, Mon Amour (1999), which won a James Laughlin Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Black Milk (2005). Given an HIV diagnosis at age 30, in her poetry, Dent explored the brutal realities and emotional complexities of living with a fatal illness. In an interview after Dent’s death of AIDS-related complications, Adrienne Rich said, “Tory Dent teaches us that poetry must speak out of extremity." And in a recent essay, Nicole Cooley described how Dent’s work, “with its reliance on strategies of Language Poetry and the New York School, its long Whitmanesque line structure, its web of allusions, and its complex syntactic patterning … challenges our assumptions about writing about both the world and the body.” An excerpt from Dent’s memoir-in-progress appeared in Bearing Life: Women’s Writings on Childlessness (2001).
Dent’s honors and awards included fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and the PEN American Center.