I always find it a little annoying when I’m reading a poet who I think I like and I go through a hundred pages without finding a single poem that interests me. Then, suddenly, in the next hundred pages I find dozens of poems that I like. But that’s precisely what’s happening as I read Dugan’s collected poems.
I didn’t like many poems in Poems Three, but I find more poems I like than I’d ever try to write about in Poems Four. I hope it has something to do with shifting themes, since it’s generally content, and not style, that attracts me to a poem. Certainly one of his new themes that I enjoy is man’s relationship to nature. Though it is secondary to his notable poems about love’s physical nature, it’s found in several of his later poems.
Despite the fact that I was fond of several of these poems, my favorite poem was this one, which doesn’t seem related to any of his major themes, but somehow seems more relevant to my own position in life than most poems I’ve read:
I never saw any point
to life because I suffered
all the time, but now
that I am happy or bored
for whole days out of pain
I regret my past inactions.
Oh I could do nothing else.
I am almost too old
to learn about human life
but I try to, I
watch it curiously and try
to imitate its better processes.
So: First pleasures after hard times,
Hello in time for goodbye.
First, I like the deprecating sense of humor, perhaps ‘cuz Mike accused me of being serious all the time yesterday. Not so, it’s my sense of humor that has managed to get me through my life without serious breakdowns. If it hadn’t been for the television program Get Smart, I doubt I would have ever made it through Army training, and certainly not through Vietnam.
I used to think that if I could just suffer a little more I would be more creative. Than I suffered most of the things my generation suffered, like war and divorce, and a few of my own, and was too busy suffering and trying to overcome the suffering to worry too much about creating art.
Retired, having finally escaped the demands of just earning a living, I’m happy most of the time, though it’s challenging being happy very long without becoming bored. When you find time to really embrace those things you love in life, you wonder how the heck you could have missed them in the rest of your life.