Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dlugos in His Youth

David Trinidad edits a collection of 20 early Tim Dlugos poems in the new Columbia Poetry Review, short winning things Dlugos penned around his time with the Christian Brothers in Philly and his move “to openly embrace a politically active, gay lifestyle” (Wikipedia)/ “[pursue] an openly gay lifestyle” (Trinidad’s Editorial Note) in DC, home of the active and open.

Dlugos’s easy way with the pop splits time with a Romantic Sehnsucht that never takes itself too seriously, but doesn’t apologize for being there either, so that a poem that starts out with a Skippy jar and ends with Liza Minnelli can ask in between “Who will have whom in the next life?” without batting an eye. (“Night Kitchen”)

Frank O’Hara’s a deep shadow and presence, but so is David Cassidy, a genuine erotic object but also an excuse for exercising the discipline of love, where you know the object’s unworthy but decide to want it anyway, want it partly for its unworthiness:
Shelley Winters you’re such a pig I love you
Not “even though” you’re ugly and never shut up
And dress like the wife of a cabbie who won
the Lottery, but because of it!

--Tim Dlugos, “Shelley Winters”
At the end of his life, Dlugos was studying to become an Episcopalian priest, and it’s easy to read these early pieces as the first push along that arc—“I carefully scrub and chant/in a voice full of longing my litany of names.” But you can tell from the start the arc would be eccentric and all his own, with Christ looking a lot like David Cassidy and love assuming positions like this:
David Cassidy, I want to fuck you!
Arrgh! Ummmmm!

What a body, like a teenaged boy’s,
And love eyes in the fan magazines!

You’re a pussy,
But I crave you—oh!

I want to fuck you, David Cassidy!
I couldn’t find a picture of Dlugos on Google to go with this post, which I hope is no index of how much he’s being read. The issue came with a Dlugos “fan badge,” which is cooler than Google anyway.

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