Alan Dugan first made his mark on the world of poetry with the publication of his award-winning collection Poems in 1961. The collection garnered such prestigious honors as the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Award. With the critical acclaim for his first poetry collection, Dugan was favorably compared to such leading colloquial American poets as William Carlos Williams. Never one to rely on cheap sentiment, Dugan has written about love, war, and toiling in the workplace with a raw energy and an ironic style that has verged on crass cynicism. More than willing to mock anyone or anything that sits on a pedestal of self-importance, he speaks plainly and directly about the foibles of the human condition. In 1967, Dugan won his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection Poems Three.
For Poems Seven, the poet has gathered together six previous collections and thirty new poems. In the foreword, Carl Phillips mentions how Dugan the poet and Dugan the teacher are "nothing if not direct." Phillips makes the point that Dugan has always refused "to adorn or shroud the truth." With such titles as "The Jack-Off of the Graveyard Shift," "Hard-On Death," "The Morning of the Dying Gigolo," and "Drunken Memories of Anne Sexton," the new poems take their rightful place next to all of the other irreverent poems that Dugan has written over a forty-year career. While he has been showered with numerous awards, Phillips surmises that Dugan would "have written anyway, always has, and still does for the simple reason that he must." Poems Seven won the 2001 National Book Award. The judges praised the collection for its "relentless focus and interrogation of language."