Tory Dent, a poet, essayist and art critic whose verse told of life with a diagnosis of H.I.V. and of the struggle to keep her creativity alive, died last Friday at her home in the East Village. She was 47.
The death was announced by her husband, Sean Harvey. The cause was an opportunistic infection associated with AIDS, to which her condition had progressed about nine years ago.
Since she was found to be H.I.V-positive at the age of 30, Ms. Dent published three volumes of her poetry. "What Silence Equals" (Persea Books), which came out in 1993, was followed by "HIV, Mon Amour" (Sheep Meadow Press), in 2000. The third, "Black Milk" (Sheep Meadow), appeared in 2005, just weeks before her death.
"HIV, Mon Amour" drew a great deal of attention and won several awards, including the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. It contained unflinching, graphically detailed verse accounts of her fight with the disease, the unending medical appointments she endured and a daily existence lived in defiance of it.
She adapted the title for "What Silence Equals" from a slogan of Act-Up, the AIDS activist group, signifying that silence about acquired immune deficiency syndrome equaled death.
Adrian Oktenberg wrote in The Women's Review of Books that the illness had made Ms. Dent "a prophet of extremity, crying in the wilderness of a new world."
"In searing poem after searing poem," Ms. Oktenberg wrote, "without lessening the tension of giving any kind of relief, Dent describes exactly what it is to be in her skin, in her head." She cited it as "one of the great, necessary books to come out of the AIDS crisis."
"Black Milk" came after years of treatment and survival, of depressions and emotional extremes. She formed it into a set of 36 linked lyric poems in which she explored her resentments and terrors, Publishers Weekly noted, and wove her own verse around borrowed lines and poems of Celan, Rilke and Donne, among others.
She voiced her gratitude to her husband and expressed her sense of responsibility to all those in her condition, and asked readers to put themselves in her place. "For seventeen years," she stated in one of the poems, "I've said 'I won't live another year.' "
She was born Victorine Dent in Wilmington, Del., and graduated from Barnard College in 1981. She received a master's degree in creative writing at New York University and began a career writing essays and criticism for art journals, as well as catalog commentaries for art exhibitions.
Besides her husband, Ms. Dent is survived by a brother, Stephen Dent of Riverside, Conn., and a sister, Melissa Dent of Manhattan.
"Writing poems from within the siege state of the body," Stanley Kunitz wrote in 2000 as the country's poet laureate, "Tory's language uncoils with such vitality, it would seem that speaking were an act of the immune system, a primary means of survival."