Tim Dlugos: New York Diary
David Trinidad, editor
Sibling Rivalry Press
Reviewed by Philip F. Clark
June 3, 1976 “My intention in starting this is to keep it going—the last time I began a diary was when I went into Brothers [The Christian Brothers], so this must really be a bigger move than I think.”
So begins Tim Dlugos’s first entry in this short but deeply revealing diary of six months of his life written after his first move to New York City, from Washington, D.C.—a move in which he would continue to make new friends, boyfriends, lovers, and other poets, as well as sustain close friendships he already had. Diaries can be a Janus-faced conundrum: a contract written in invisible ink, which asks the writer to reveal himself, and the reader to believe what is written. Yet, diaries can also be masks; allowing a persona that Socrates spoke of: ‘Be as you wish to seem.’ But here is Tim, completely open, unmasked, honest (for some, to a fault), and one can believe every entry. We can very be thankful to David Trinidad, and Sibling Rivalry Press for giving us this account in Tim’s own words, of a poet who was so open to every experience he could pack in, at a time when he absorbed, engaged, pondered, protested, gossiped, wrestled with demons, and continued what would grow into his powerful, impactful poetry that we still, so thankfully, have today.
Tim began writing poetry in 1970, then just twenty years old. Thirty years after his death from AIDS, on December 3, 1990, Tim Dlugos remains one of the most beloved of gay poets. Often associated with the New York School of poets, Tim’s work did find community there, but his poetry also stood alone, a voice that was becoming its own even as he questioned it, and the poetry community in general.
The many voices of Tim are all here; the poet of the bright and hearty laugh as he engaged in gatherings with his seemingly inexhaustible number of friends and lovers (many life-long); the man questioning his religious belief (and yet, to the end, sustained by it); boxing with desire and sexuality (always enjoying the fight as well as the joy). Here is the avid and constant reader (Ernst Cassirer, Ernest Becker, Henri Nouwen, Wilhelm Reich, Proust), the articulator, the seducer, the mentor, the solitary man and the man who always loved a crowded room. To be in Tim’s presences, if even for a short time, was to be in a magnetic force of intelligence, a rapier wit, and a vulnerability that he was never ashamed to show:
June 10, 1976 “Much hot poop to transcribe tonight.” “Tonight I made my first literary enemy in DC.”
June 15, 1976 “ . . . very upsetting letter from my mother, pressuring me to forget about writing as anything important. Thank God I’m away from their loving, ignorant opinions about the future of my life. I listened to A Chorus Line straight through, crying at half the songs; then I felt much better.”
June 26, 1976 “. . . Last night ended up at the tubs after sloppy performance of Henry V . . .had flawless sex—made love, really—with Jonathan Harris, an apprentice with ABT [American Ballet Theater], who was not exactly a stellar conversationalist after an hour of intense genital choreography . . ..”
July 5, 1976 “Finding it harder & harder to write here regularly— . . . .”
September 2, 1976 “. . .Went to confession Tuesday—first time in 6 years. Felt good. Felt like expanding spiritual life—we’ll see if the resolve lasts. . . .”
Tim Dlugos, here, is a compendium of all that he was at this very important six months of his life, and all that he would become. The last entry in the diary is prescient:
November 23, 1976 (last entry) “. . .Tomorrow to DC, so won’t be visiting here ’til after Thanksgiving. Am reading Yeats’s A Vision, and this time may learn something.”
And learn so much he did; his life a constant ‘vision’ of his own strength as well as frailty. In this Introduction, David Trinidad notes, “The New York that Tim captures in these pages is long gone. While it gives us a few precious glimpses of that lost world, his diary is a reminder of how quickly a world can disappear.” Yes, precious, but Tim and that world are not lost to us here, in this small window into the poet at one of the most important times of his life. The diaries did end, yet as Trinidad has said in the remarkable volume, A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos—”The poems became the diary.” And this brief collection of entries from that too-brief “fast life” is a table full of welcome.
For more information about Tim Dlugos: New York Diary visit: https://siblingrivalrypress.bigcartel.com/product/new-york-diary-by-tim-dlugos-edited-by-david-trinidad.
Philip F. Clark is the author of the poetry collection, The Carnival of Affection (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). He currently teaches English, poetry and literature at City College, New York, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing in 2016. He is also an Associate Poetry Editor at The Night Heron Barks, and the editor of The Poet’s Grin. His poetry and reviews have been published in Lambda Literary, Vox Populi, (Re:) An Ideas Journal, HIV Here and Now, and Atomic Micro Press. His other published writing has been included in Crashing Cathedrals: Edmund White by the Book (ITNA Press, 2019). and Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares and Rebels Press, 2019). He is currently working on a second collection of poetry.