His first volume Poems published in 1961 was a chosen by the Yale Series of Younger Poets and went on to win the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His last volume, entitled Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry, was published in 2001 by Seven Stories Press in New York City and won Dugan a second National Book Award. Since his death in 2003, a complete volume of collected poetry has yet to appear.
Dugan grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and served in World War II, experiences which entered his poetry, though he was not a confessional poet. He lived in Truro, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, where he was a member of the Writing Committee of the Fine Arts Work Center.
Dugan's work was published in successive numbered collections under the simple title Poems.
Alan Dugan was married to the artist Judith Shahn, to whom he dedicated each of his books. He died on September 3, 2003, of pneumonia at age 80.
Dugan received many awards and fellowships for his poetry.