Dugan's 1961 Poems (that year's Yale Younger Poets winner) turned much of the poetry establishment on its ear: Dugan's irreverent or cynical poems, full of horse sense and completely resistant to gloss, spoke to a community of readers soured on old forms and unattached to new ones. A celebration of spring showed how "the skunk cabbage generates its/ frost-thawing fart-gas in New Jersey and the first/ crocuses appear..." Other poems attacked America's growing involvement in Vietnam, and still others treated sex in memorably, newly flippant ways: "In spring when the ego arose from the genitals/ after a winter's refrigeration, the sergeants/ were angry..." Subsequent books (Poems Two, Poems Three and so on) continued Dugan's project of comic, bleak and formally varied commentary on a dirty, terminally frayed and yet attractive America. Yet Dugan remained aloof from the academy; as a result, his profile gradually dimmed, though he retained an enthused (and amused) core of fans, among them ex-Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. This carefully constructed, funny and sometimes unvarying volume combines all six of Dugan's previous books with a decade's worth of new verse. One of the best of the new poems finds a domestic urgency: "Don't walk barefoot in the bathroom," it advises; "There was someone in the mirror who I killed." "You'll find in my Collected Poems," another new poem explains, "the palliative answer/ to your stupid questions": many readers just might, and the book's nomination as a National Book Award finalist should bring more of them to it.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Buy this book. Not because Dugan has won the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, Prix de Rome, and Yale Younger Poets awards but because he brings an intriguing and idiosyncratic vision to American poetry. This collection includes 35 new poems as well as the best poems from six earlier collections. Dugan examines a cornucopia of topics, but each poem probes one of life's truths. What you remember most after reading Dugan's poems is his sense of play, as evidenced by a few of the titles: "The Esthetics of Circumcision," "On the Supposed Immortality of Orchids," "Gargoyle's Song for a Warming Trend," and "Funeral Oration for a Mouse." Sometimes you're not sure what's happening in a Dugan poem "Marry. Sweets, tarts and sweets,/ come among soots and sherds. The dairy of the breasts" but that sense of mystery and adventure propels you forward. Indeed, Dugan is best when he weds the quotidian with a sense of life's mysteries: "Then the cat began to eat the mouse head first/ instead of going for the easier belly or asshole./ I had always wanted to see the relation/ of blood and roses restated in some novel way,/ without the biological unconsciousness of thorns." Some of the Sixties poems feel dated, but many of these pieces are still fresh. Recommended for all collections. Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I read a lot of poetry. Somehow I had completely missed Alan Dugan. Then, thankfully, the National Book Awards judges picked Poems 7 for the 2001 award. Read morePublished on April 10, 2002
Forget the dismal frightened little p-c conformists whose fears have annihilated their sensibilities & whose greatest thrill in life is trashing brilliant iconoclastic talent. Read morePublished on December 15, 2001
Alan Dugan's poetry is wonderfully crisp. He writes poetry with the seriousness it deserves while also displaying a comical side. Read morePublished on December 15, 2001 by Teddy Roosevelt