The Protagonist Rides On: Patricia Carragon on Peter Dugan’s Members Only

Members Only, Peter Dugan, Devine Madness Press, 2008

Cowboys never die. They live on as legends. They’re the dreamers and rebels on horseback – rugged individualists – gritty and tough like their terrain out West. But on Long Island, they ride motorcycles on asphalt. They wear black leather. They’re America’s heroes who refuse to conform. Peter V. Dugan’s Members Only is a coming of age exploration into Long Island’s maverick culture of bikers and scooter tramps, rock and roll and beer, scars and tattoos. Peter’s poems take us to a higher level. We learn that Walt Whitman does ride a Harley. In “My Reason,” Dugan writes:

I write for the musician, the artist and the poet,
those who don’t want to go with the flow
of music.

I write for the outlaw, the outcast and the
outlandish. But they are not out of touch.
They are what they are and I am what I am.
I am a poet. I am on the outside looking in.

Poets, musicians and artists suffer the consequences for being different in thought and attitude like the outlaws, outcasts and the outlandish. Dugan’s poetry speaks for them. His poems convey respect and dignity for them since he is one of them. And this theme is consistent throughout his book.

In The Gray Pilgrim, Dugan takes us on a journey with an aging renegade, born and bred on Long Island, but born to ride across the nation. As you read on, you sense a legend is being born. You hear the Harley groan. You smell the grease. You see a bandana covering the veteran biker’s gray hair. In spite of his weathered face, he is ageless – a pilgrim searching for stories. He must be a poet. Yet some see him differently:

To some he is an eccentric renegade filled with
purposeless wanderlust.

But Dugan rebels and continues his saga. His protagonist rides on. The author concludes his piece, using words that create a legend:

The fringes of his jacket gave the appearance
of wings, an eagle gliding on the wind.

Walt Whitman rides a Harley Davidson.

Peter V. Dugan’s Member’s Only is a no holds bared peek into the world of bikers. Past the grease and grit, his poetry travels towards life and people. Walt Whitman does ride a Harley. And bikers, like cowboys, are living legends, and Members Only is worth the ride.


Patricia Carragon is a New York City poet and writer. Her publications include, Rogue Scholars, Poets Wear Prada, Best Poem, Big City Lit, CLWN WR, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Clockwise Cat, Ditch Poetry Magazine, MÖBIUS, the Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly, Marymark Press, and more. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press) and Urbane Haiku and More (Fierce Grace Press). She is a member of Brevitas, a group dedicated to short poems. Patricia hosts and curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor of its annual anthology.