cover image A Fast Life: The Collected Poems

A Fast Life: The Collected Poems

Tim Dlugos, edited by David Trinidad. Nightboat (UPNE, dist.), $25 trade paper (632p) ISBN 978-0-9844598-3-4

There's more to Dlugos than his posthumous legend suggests%E2%80%94and yet the legend is reason enough to revisit his work. No story of gay American poetry would be complete without an account of his urbane, openhearted, and various works, admired before and after the poet's death from AIDS in 1990. He's sometimes remembered as a hip New Yorker, a link between uptown and downtown scenes, whose poems amble unguardedly, first winningly, and then hauntingly, through the days and nights of his life: "it was more fun," one late poem muses, "before I knew/ my poetry could never be a spaceship/ to speed me far away." Those earthbound poems also record, by name, his links to other poetic lights: Bernadette Mayer, Eileen Myles, David Kalstone. Some of them fall between meditations and rambles, unspooling his thoughts through several pages of free verse or boxy prose. Yet Dlugos did at least as well with his shorter poems, written in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s as well as in New York in the 1980s; in them, he was very much out of the closet, attentive more to feeling than to narrative, and delighted to put the legacy of Frank O'Hara to compact and beautiful use, as in "The Steven Hamilton Sestina," tricky or ingenuous sonnets, the airy poem of infatuation entitled "Lunch with Paul," or the anthology-worthy "American Baseball." This ambitious collection, with Trinidad's foreword and chronology, might elevate from cult status a poet who did much more than respond to his times. (June)