Before his death in 1990, Tim Dlugos wrote a poem entitled “G-9” that chronicled his stay in the AIDS ward of Roosevelt Hospital in New York. In it he writes, “Last week I made a list of all my friends who’ve died/ or who are living and infected./ Every day since, I’ve remembered/ someone I forgot to list.” Disease and mortality preoccupied much of Tim’s poetry throughout the 1980s. His work over the course of the final decade of his life reveals a precarious balance between the ecstasy of life and the nearness of death. And during that time (barring a few years while he sobered up) Tim was prolific. He published widely—in BOMB Magazine, The Paris Review, The Washington Review—and was an active member of the downtown literary scene, editing and contributing to such magazines as Christopher Street, the New York Native, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. After he was diagnosed with HIV, though, he gave up poetry, adamant on becoming a priest. That’s when he enrolled in Yale Divinity School. The year was 1988.
For Tim, joining the Divinity School was less the result of a spiritual awakening than a return to a religious education that defined his early life from Springfield, Massachusetts (where he was born) to Arlington, Virginia, (where he spent his childhood). Tim was always attracted to a religious vocation and parochial education so shaped his adolescent worldview that when he was 18 in 1968, he willingly joined the Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order and entered their college, La Salle College. By 1971, though, Tim had a change of heart. That year, he decided to leave the Brothers, leave college altogether, and pursue a more radical, political and gay life in Washington, DC.
In DC, Tim became involved with Mass Transit, a political counter-cultural group of writers and thinkers that connected him with literary personalities from the capital to St. Marks in New York, where he eventually moved. In the late 70s and early 80s, he published several collections of poetry, establishing him as “the Frank O’Hara of his generation” according to poet Ted Berrigan. He lived in Brooklyn with various boyfriends before deciding to move out of the city and move to New Haven. But in 1989, after just one year at Yale, he was forced to come back, citing his declining health. By December 3 the following year, he was dead.
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