High Risk Press

Powerless: Selected Poems,1973-1990 , Tim Dlugos

(High Risk Press, London and New York, 1996, 115 pp.)

Tim Dlugos defied "identity" both in his life and in his work. This is one of the reasons (some would say the MAIN reason) why he continues to be such an inspiration to other writers and artists while his work remains stubbornly OUT OF PRINT. The publication of Powerless: Selected Poems 1973-1990 is a wondrous achievement because, as its editor David Trinidad makes clear, no publishing house wants to risk investing in the work of a dead poet who wasn't famous. I would add that Tim's work isn't easily pigeonholed, so that what we consider great range others see as "unfinished." I had to bite my tongue one time to keep from jumping on someone who commented "It's so sad that Tim was just starting to find his voice when he died." Excuse me, he had been writing great long narrative poems for years (like the aptly named chapbook For Years published by Doug Lang's Jawbone Press in 1977). Tim's oft anthologized "G-9," named for the wing devoted to caring for people with AIDS at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, didn't come out of nowhere, and was NOT an example of his "growing and learning" once he became ill with AIDS. As Powerless makes clear, Tim continued to write different kinds of poems all of his life. He liked extended narratives, short sonnets, weird lists, silly stories, religious leanings. Bernard Welt has commented that the formal aspects of poems such as "Healing the World from Battery Park" are so well conceived that most readers miss them and think Tim casually wrote "off the top of his head." I always admired the ALL of Tim's head and his ability to make something "hard" seem "easy." In the introduction to Powerless, Dennis Cooper says that much better when he speaks of Tim's "ravenous fascination with the innumerable ways in which grace could be represented through artfulness." When we went to "Mass Transit" poetry readings in DC in the early '70s, the thing that Tim liked about P. Inman's poetry was that Peter wrote as "P." so that no one could tell whether the poems were written by a man or a woman. What P. shared with Tim was a common sense of amusement at those poets who came "posed" to the readings-like the Southern belle with a fake Louisiana accent that sounded more like a bad Boris Karloff imitation. All of his life Tim continued to shun having a central identity as a way to transcend death. His gift to us is a celebration of a life not defined by illness, but by innumerable interests and relationships.

-Martina Darragh