What Yusef Komunyakaa learned from Alan Dugan

September 1, 2022
Artist News

Photo by Nancy Crampton

“I met Alan Dugan at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in October 1980 with a few titles of his in my head, all from Poems (1961). This first collection won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and the story was that a friend had submitted the manuscript on his behalf for the Yale Younger Poets Award.

When he asked me to leave a few poems in his mailbox, I felt intimidated. What tone of voice would he use to critique my poetry? He was known not to hold back. As soon as I put four poems in his mailbox, I began to agonize. I thought a short afternoon nap would solve the problem. Two hours later when I opened my eyes, I wanted to run downstairs and retrieve the poems. Or maybe I would leave him only two. But the mailbox was empty. Damn! I steeled myself. I would look him in the eyes and take the criticism. I tried not to think it would be easier to stand at the edge of the bay and watch seagulls rip the guts out of fish beached on the sand.”


Read “Poetry honed as if on some lathe of bone” by Pulitzer winner and past Fellow, Yusef Komunyakaa published in The Pulitzer Prizes.

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