Dugan, Alan 1923-2003

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DUGAN, Alan 1923-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born February 12, 1923, in Brooklyn, NY; died of pneumonia September 3, 2003, in Hyannis, MA. Educator and author. Dugan was a prize-winning poet whose works received a Pulitzer and two National Book Awards. Beginning to write as a teenager, he at first kept his fondness for verse a secret because he felt it was not a manly pursuit. Nevertheless, he kept on writing and, while a student at Queens College, won the Poetry Prize there in 1943. Drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force, he served as an engine mechanic for B-29s in the Pacific theater. When he returned home, he enrolled at Olivet College, but left the school in protest when a favorite professor was fired for his leftist politics. Dugan next went to Mexico City College, where he finally earned his bachelor's degree in English in 1951. Moving to Manhattan, he worked various jobs to support himself and his wife, including at an advertising firm, a staple factory, and even at a factory where he made plastic vaginas that were used to show women how to insert diaphragms properly. For a brief time, he and his wife also owned a greeting card company. During this time, Dugan kept composing his verses, and in 1960 his work paid off when he won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. The award led to his book Poems being published by Yale University Press in 1961; the collection won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award the next year. Dugan's poetry, which at times has been compared to that of William Carlos Williams, is characterized by prosaic subject matter that speaks of common things most people can relate to, and yet the verses contain poignant, moving subtexts that betray the poet's inner sensitivity and sense of humor. His verses are terse, simple, and austere, often imbued with bitterness and a hint of death, yet there is a tenderness there, too. Dugan went on to write nine collections of poetry in all, most of which are simply numbered sequentially: Poems 2 (1963), Poems 3 (1967), Poems 4 (1974), and so on, ending with his last volume, Poems 7 (2001), which earned Dugan his second National Book Award. He was also the recipient of several fellowships, including an American Academy in Rome fellowship and two Guggenheim fellowships, which he made use of by traveling to places such as Rome and Paris; his most recent prize was a Lannan Foundation Award, which he received in 2003 and which included a $125,000 honorarium. As his career progressed and his finances improved, Dugan was able to spend more time writing, as well as teaching, poetry. He taught at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1960s and, later, held posts at Connecticut College, Western Washington State College, the University of Arkansas, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the University of Colorado. Among his many other honors were the 1962 Prix de Rome, the 1982 Shelley Memorial Award, and the 1985 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.



Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, second edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.


Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2003, p. B10.

New York Times, September 5, 2003, p. C21.

Washington Post, September 5, 2003, p. B7.