Alan Dugan Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

The literary accomplishments of Alan Dugan (DEW-guhn) centered on the medium of poetry.

Alan Dugan Achievements

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Alan Dugan had been publishing poems in literary magazines for a number of years—winning an award from Poetry as early as 1947—before his first book of poetry was published in 1961. That book, Poems, enjoyed one of the greatest critical successes of any first volume of poems in the twentieth century. Dudley Fitts awarded it the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award; it also won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize (1962). Poet Philip Booth called it “the most original first book that has appeared . . . in a sad long time.”

Dugan published subsequent volumes of poetry, similar in style and range to his first volume. Dugan received the Rome Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1962), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1963-1964), and the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1966-1967). He won the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine in 1967 and the Shelley Memorial Award in 1982. Poems Seven earned the National Book Award in Poetry from the National Book Foundation in 2001 and the Massachusetts Book Award in poetry in 2002. Dugan received the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 2002.

Alan Dugan Bibliography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Atlas, James. “Autobiography of the Present.” Poetry 125 (February, 1975): 300-301. This review emphasizes Dugan’s acute observations about commonplace moments in daily life. Atlas criticizes the later poems of Dugan for adopting a hectoring and polemical tone.

Boyers, Robert. “On Alan Dugan.” In Contemporary Poetry in America, edited by Robert Boyers. New York: Schocken Books, 1974. A clear and thorough overview of Dugan’s poetry. Despite his limitation in range, Dugan is praised as a moralist in difficult times. Boyers believes that the best poems make “a temporary truce with the miserableness of the world.”

Dugan, Alan. Interview by J. C. Ellefson and Belle Waring. American Poetry Review 19 (May/June, 1990): 43-51. In this wide-ranging interview, Dugan talks about his childhood, his parents, his early jobs (including writing for the New York Enquirer, later to become National Enquirer), and his attitude toward poetry. He expresses admiration for the poetry of Charles Bukowski and Philip Levine, contemporary urban American poets with whom he felt a kinship.

Howard, Richard. Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. Rev. ed. New York: Atheneum, 1980. In this complex and difficult-to-read book, Howard finds something like paranoia at the center of Dugan’s work. He believes that the poetry displays an “honest and desperate resentment and hatred,” a hatred sometimes directed at language itself.

Martin, Douglas. “Alan Dugan, Eighty, Barbed Poet of Daily Life’s Profundities.” The New York Times, September 5, 2003, p. C11. Obituary of Dugan that looks at his life and his poetry.

Scharf, Michael. Review of Poems Seven. Publishers Weekly 248, no. 43 (October 22, 2001): 71. A review of the collection that garnered for Dugan his second National Book Award.

Stepanchev, Stephen. American Poetry Since 1945. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. Stepanchev states that nothing was sacred to Dugan. He praises him highly for the colloquial directness and honesty of his work and discovers a kind of irony in the way his simple style confronted difficult and complicated subjects.