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This review is taken from PN Review 146, Volume 28 Number 6, July - August 2002.

THE LIFE OF THE BALL TURRET GUNNER ALAN DUGAN, Poems Seven. New and Complete Poetry (Seven Stories Press, 2001) £15.49

Alan Dugan, National Book Award winner for 2001, writes like the living ghost of Jarrell's ball turret gunner who, 'from his mother's womb, fell into the state'. Dugan implicitly makes this comparison in his meditation on French torture in Algeria where an acquiescence to the state's power (the tortured dives into a 'lake of fire') brings no relief:

                                            However,
instead of being shriven or freed up in flight, oh I
was born again. I squalled for a while to keep my death,
that time when chains were arms and pain a great ally,
but I was conquered and began my sentence...

Stunned and distanced at finding himself alive, in but not of the world, Dugan observes a fractured world which threatens comedy and tragedy, but achieves neither in its dogged repetitions. Dugan writes in 'Morning Song'.

I have risen to the morning danger and feel proud,
and after shaving off the night's disguises, after searching
close to the bone for blood, and finding only a little,
I shall walk out bravely into the daily accident.

Dugan walks out because, having survived, he has no choice. Having no choice, though, doesn't mean that Dugan views the world with anything but a mordant, occasionally bleak and caustic, distance: 'I should do something/to get out of here/but float around in the culture/wondering what will grow.'

Poems Seven collects Dugan's previous six ...


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