Alan Dugan, Poems 4 (Little, Brown, 1974)
[originally posted 11Jun2001]
[ed. note 2014: Skimming the Internet tells me Dugan never changed the format of his titles and got as far as Poems 7.]
“Here we go.” I thought. “Dugan. He won the Pulitzer. This gotta be some good, right?” Well, kinda right. Dugan is a mix of concrete and language, without ever actually getting into the typological gymnastics of either; dada without slipping into nonsense. When he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s witty, surprising, germane; when he misses, he misses wide.
Proceeding sidewise by inattention I arrive
unknowingly at an unsought destination
and pass it by wondering: what next?
That complete poem (“Passing Through the Banford Tolls”) is simply delicious. Dugan makes getting lost into an art form, but allows it little enough space that it’s not a big deal. A good number of poets past and present could take a tip about the latter half of that statement. A book full of poems like this would have made it into the year’s top 15 without a problem; as it stands, there’s enough brilliance here that I’m going to be looking for Dugan’s other three books published before this one (bet you can guess their titles) to see if there’s one that’s all pearls and no swine. ** ½