Dennis Cooper, The Missing Men, My Mark
The Missing Men/My Mark

The Missing Men

Signed and inscribed

Am Here Books/Immediate Editions (Self-published: New York)

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Inscribed to Tim Dlugos: “For Tim—My hero & accomplice. Much love, Dennis. Sept. 4, 1981.”

Eerily titled, in The Missing Men Cooper tells the stories of homosexual men that have disappeared. Written before there was a name for the mysterious new disease that was silently being spread among the urban gay male community Cooper is writing about, this slim volume foretells of the viral storm about to come. This copy is inscribed by Cooper to poet and friend Tim Dlugos, who would die in 1990 of AIDS-related complications.

In 1976, Dlugos moved to NYC, where he became a prominent younger poet in the downtown literary scene centered around the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. His poems were praised for their innovation and wit, their appropriation of popular culture, and their openly gay subject matter. In 1977, he began a correspondence and friendship with Dennis Cooper, then based in Los Angeles. Dlugos published two books with Cooper’s Little Caesar Press: Je Suis Ein Americano (1979) and Entre Nous (1982). Of the latter, critic Marjorie Perloff wrote, “This is poetry of extraordinary speed and energy that fuses fact and fantasy, dream and documentary. Tim Dlugos’ every nerve seems to vibrate.” Dlugos also edited and contributed to such magazines as “Christopher Street,” “New York Native,” and “The Poetry Project Newsletter.”

Dlugos tested positive for HIV in 1987, and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989. In 1988, he moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he was enrolled in Yale Divinity School. His intention was to become a priest in the Episcopal Church. He died of complications due to AIDS on December 3, 1990, at the age of forty.

Dlugos is widely known for the poems he wrote while hospitalized in G-9, the AIDS ward at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, and is considered a seminal poet of the AIDS epidemic.


My Mark

Signed in black ink

1st Edition (Sherwood Press: Los Angeles)

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Dennis Cooper reflects on his chapbook My Mark: “In 1982, when I was twenty-nine, I published my first respectable book of prose, My Mark, which was a chapbook put out on my friend/poet David Trinidad’s Sherwood Press. My Mark was inspired by my obsession with a boy named Mark Lewis. A couple of years earlier, I had done an East Coast reading tour with my friend/poet Tim Dlugos. At our reading in Washington, DC, I had met Mark, and his beauty and demeanor had had an incredible power over me. He was in his very early twenties, a fan of my poetry and a friend of the reading’s coordinator. After the reading, he went out for drinks with us, and feeling my intense attraction to him, he flirted with me rather mercilessly. When I asked him to go back to the hotel with me, he declined, and I felt extremely disappointed and used by him to the point that I punched him in the chest, which was completely out of character for me. He continued to haunt my mind, and I was astonished when a year later he appeared at a reading of mine in Los Angeles. He came up to me after the reading and started flirting with me again. He said he was in Los Angeles staying with a wealthy man who “quote-unquote” collected beautiful things. He took my phone number and said he would sneak away and get together with me, and I was completely enthralled both by him and by his inference that he was a kind of high class prostitute, which suggested that I could have him for a price. I was so enthralled by him that I was prepared to pay him whatever he asked. When he never called me, I was incredibly disappointed. In my mind, he had become a kind of one boy consensus of so many themes in my life and in my work. So I sat down and wrote My Mark about him, making him the ultimate object of my fantasies and emotional needs, similarly to what I would later do with George Miles in my novel cycle. It was the first fiction of mine that I was and remain truly happy with. Later, My Mark was enlarged into a novella, Safe, that was published by SeaHorse Press in 1984. Soon after Safe‘s publication, I was invited to read in the One World Poetry Festival in Amsterdam, where I met my future boyfriend, a young Dutch guy named Richard whom I ended up moving to Amsterdam to live with. At the festival, I read My Mark, and as I was leaving the stage afterwards, I looked out at the audience and saw Mark Lewis sitting there. It was truly bizarre, both to see him again in such an unlikely place, and to have unwittingly read My Mark to him. He and an older Dutch man, who turned out to be his wealthy boyfriend/sugar daddy of the time, came up to me. Mark told me he’d read Safe and was very flattered, and his boyfriend scowled at me and told me that I misrepresented Mark in a libelous way. It was very strange. Mark again suggested we should get together while I was in Amsterdam, and took the number at my hotel. To my amazement, he did call me and we spent an evening together going to clubs. His effect on me was undiminished, and he told me that if it weren’t for his insanely jealous boyfriend, whom Mark had been ordered to phone every half hour during our time together, he would have slept with me. At the end of the evening, he kissed me, and gave me his address. After I returned to the States, we wrote letters to each other, and when I moved to Amsterdam in 1985, we became friends. As I came to know Mark, I understood who he really was and how lost he felt, and why he had resisted sleeping with me. He had spent his life as an object of desire, moving from one sugar daddy to another, but he was an intelligent and artistic guy who dreamt of being a writer. My writing and interest in him had excited him because I represented the kind of person he wished he could be. He’d wanted me to know and respect him as a person to help him feel like he had value apart from his physical beauty. He’d flirted with me because he didn’t how else to interest me, and I had responded just like everyone else had, yet we had gotten through that and became good friends and peers. But about six months into my time living in Amsterdam, Mark began to have a lot of health problems. He came down with flu after flu and eventually became so ill that he didn’t leave his boyfriend’s house. One day he stopped answering the phone, and I never saw him again. Even though I never found out exactly what happened to Mark, I’m almost sure that he died of AIDS around that time.”


Work by Dennis Cooper