A Fast Life:
The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos
by Tim Dlugos
$22.95 List Price
It might seem, on opening A Fast Life, that Tim Dlugos was born fully formed from the head of Frank O’Hara. Dlugos was undeniably an original, but his sophistication and finesse—acquired while he was still a student at La Salle College and immersing himself in the work of the New York School poets—showed from the very beginning, when he started writing at the age of twenty in 1970. His collected poems reveal no big stylistic breaks, no eureka moment when the poet turns the corner from juvenilia to maturity, but rather a continuous deepening of a consistent aesthetic. His life, on the other hand, was tumultuous: Dlugos thought he was heading toward a monastic existence before he discovered antiwar politics, poetry, and his own gay identity in short order. The rest is chronicled in the poems: an overwhelming hunger for experience fueled by drugs and alcohol as much as by sex and poetry, at least until he found AA in 1984, after which his writing went on hiatus for a few years and he once again found himself drawn toward religion. By the time he’d enrolled at Yale Divinity School and was accepted as a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church in 1988—the same year he resumed writing poetry with his previous intensity—he had tested positive for HIV. He was first hospitalized for AIDS in 1989 and died the following year, at the age of forty.
In retrospect, Dlugos may be the great poet of the AIDS epidemic, above all in “G-9,” a remarkable long poem in short lines whose meditative prosody owes more to James Schuyler, perhaps, than to O’Hara. The poem, named for the ward
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