James Dickey
Overview
 
James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 – January 19, 1997) was an American poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate—serves as the nation's official poet. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of...

 in 1966.
Dickey was born to lawyer Eugene Dickey and Maibelle Swift in Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

 where he attended North Fulton High School
North Fulton High School
Johns Creek High School is a public secondary school in Johns Creek, Georgia, United States,serving grades 9-12. The school is a part of the Fulton County School System. The school, a state-of-the-art facility, was established in the fall of 2009 and has an enrollment around 1,840. The school's...

 in Atlanta's Buckhead
Buckhead (Atlanta)
Buckhead is the uptown district of Atlanta, Georgia, United States, comprising approximately the northern one-fifth of the city. Buckhead is a major commercial and financial center of the Southeast, and it is the third-largest business district in Atlanta, behind Downtown and Midtown...

 neighborhood. In 1942 he enrolled at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina
Clemson University
Clemson University is an American public, coeducational, land-grant, sea-grant, research university located in Clemson, South Carolina, United States....

 and played on the football team as a tailback. After one semester, he left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps.
Quotations

Drunk on the wind in my mouth,Wringing the handlebar for speed,Wild to be wreckage forever.

Cherrylog Road (l. 106–108).

Dust fanned in scraped puffs from the earthBetween his arms, and blood turned his face inside out,To demonstrate its supplenessOf veins, as he perfected his role.

The Performance (l. 13–16).

It was something like loveFrom another world that seized herFrom behind, and she gave, not lifting her headOut of dew, without ever looking, her bestSelf to that great need.

The Sheep Child (l. 31–35).

I saw for a blazing momentThe great grassy world from both sides,Man and beast in the round of their need.

The Sheep Child (l. 41–43).

I have just come down from my father.Higher and higher he liesAbove me in a blue lightShed by a tinted window.

The Hospital Window (l. 1–4).

With the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throatThe undying cry of the void falling living beginning to be somethingThat no one has ever been and lived through screaming without enough air.

Falling (l. 9–11).

She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape watching it loseAnd gain get back its houses and peoples watching it bring upIts local lights single homes lamps on barn roofs.

Falling (l. 66–68).

Here they are. The soft eyes open.If they have lived in a woodIt is a wood.If they have lived on plainsIt is grass rollingUnder their feet forever.

The Heaven of Animals (l. 1–6).

These hunt, as they have doneBut with claws and teeth grown perfect,More deadly than they can believe.

The Heaven of Animals (l. 20–22).

Those that are huntedKnow this as their life,Their reward: to walkUnder such trees in full knowledgeOf what is in glory above them,And to feel no fear.

The Heaven of Animals (l. 29–34).

Encyclopedia
James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 – January 19, 1997) was an American poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate—serves as the nation's official poet. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of...

 in 1966.

Early years

Dickey was born to lawyer Eugene Dickey and Maibelle Swift in Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

 where he attended North Fulton High School
North Fulton High School
Johns Creek High School is a public secondary school in Johns Creek, Georgia, United States,serving grades 9-12. The school is a part of the Fulton County School System. The school, a state-of-the-art facility, was established in the fall of 2009 and has an enrollment around 1,840. The school's...

 in Atlanta's Buckhead
Buckhead (Atlanta)
Buckhead is the uptown district of Atlanta, Georgia, United States, comprising approximately the northern one-fifth of the city. Buckhead is a major commercial and financial center of the Southeast, and it is the third-largest business district in Atlanta, behind Downtown and Midtown...

 neighborhood. In 1942 he enrolled at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina
Clemson University
Clemson University is an American public, coeducational, land-grant, sea-grant, research university located in Clemson, South Carolina, United States....

 and played on the football team as a tailback. After one semester, he left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps. Dickey served with the U.S. Army Air Forces as a radar operator in a night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

 squadron during the Second World War, and in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Between the wars he attended Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University is a private research university located in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1873, the university is named for shipping and rail magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who provided Vanderbilt its initial $1 million endowment despite having never been to the...

, graduating with degrees in English and philosophy, as well as minoring in astronomy. He also taught at the University of Florida.

Career

From 1950 to 1954, Dickey taught at Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

 (then Rice Institute) in Houston. While teaching freshman composition at Rice, Dickey returned for a two-year air force stint in Korea, and went back to teaching. (Norton Anthology, The Literature of the American South, 809) He then worked for several years in advertising, most notably writing copy and helping direct creative work on the Coca-Cola and Lay's Potato Chips campaign. He once said he embarked on his advertising career in order to "make some bucks." Dickey also said "I was selling my soul to the devil all day...and trying to buy it back at night".

He returned to poetry in 1960, and his first book, "Into the Stone and Other Poems", was published in 1960 and "Drowning with Others" was published in 1962, which led to a Guggenheim fellowship (Norton Anthology, The Literature of the American South) Buckdancer's Choice
Buckdancer's Choice
Buckdancer's Choice is a 1965 collection of poems by James Dickey. The book received the Melville Cane Award and the National Book Award for Poetry in 1966....

earned him a National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 in 1965. Among his better known poems are "The Performance", "Cherrylog Road", "The Firebombing", "May Day Sermon", "Falling", and "For The Last Wolverine".

After being named a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress, he published his first volume of collected poems, "Poems 1957-1967" in 1967. This publishing may represent Dickey's best work—and he accepted a position of Professor of English and writer-in-residence at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.

His popularity exploded after the film version
Deliverance
Deliverance is a 1972 American thriller film produced and directed by John Boorman. Principal cast members include Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty in his film debut. The film is based on a 1970 novel of the same name by American author James Dickey, who has a small role in the...

 of his novel Deliverance
Deliverance (novel)
Deliverance is a 1970 novel by James Dickey, his first. It was adapted into a 1972 film by director John Boorman. In 1998, the editors of the Modern Library selected Deliverance as #42 on their list of the 100 best 20th-Century novels...

was released in 1972. Dickey had a cameo in the film as a sheriff.

The poet was invited to read his poem "The Strength of Fields" at President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

's inauguration in 1977.

Personal life

In November 1948 he married Maxine Syerson, and three years later they had their first son, Christopher
Christopher Dickey
Christopher Dickey, born August 31, 1951, is the Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek magazine. The author of six books, his most recent is Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force – the NYPD, published in February 2009...

; a second son, Kevin, was born in 1958. Two months after Maxine died in 1976, Dickey married Deborah Dodson. Their daughter, Bronwen, was born in 1981. Christopher is a novelist and journalist, lately providing coverage from the Middle East for Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

. In 1998, Christopher wrote a book about his father and Christopher's own sometimes troubled relationship with him, titled Summer of Deliverance. Kevin is a radiologist and lives in New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

. Bronwen is currently a writer in New York City.

James Dickey died on January 19, 1997, six days after his last class at the University of South Carolina, where from 1968 he taught as poet-in-residence. Dickey spent his last years in and out of hospitals, afflicted first with jaundice
Jaundice
Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, the conjunctival membranes over the sclerae , and other mucous membranes caused by hyperbilirubinemia . This hyperbilirubinemia subsequently causes increased levels of bilirubin in the extracellular fluid...

 and later fibrosis
Fibrosis
Fibrosis is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue in a reparative or reactive process. This is as opposed to formation of fibrous tissue as a normal constituent of an organ or tissue...

 of the lungs. He also suffered from alcoholism.

Works

  • Into the Stone and Other Poems (1960)
  • Drowning with Others (1962)
  • Two Poems of the Air (1964)
  • Helmets (1964)
  • Buckdancer's Choice (1965)
  • Poems 1957-67 (1967)
  • The Achievement of James Dickey: A Comprehensive Selection of His Poems (1968)
  • The Eye-Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy (1970)
  • Deliverance
    Deliverance (novel)
    Deliverance is a 1970 novel by James Dickey, his first. It was adapted into a 1972 film by director John Boorman. In 1998, the editors of the Modern Library selected Deliverance as #42 on their list of the 100 best 20th-Century novels...

    (1970)
  • Exchanges (1971)
  • The Zodiac (1976)
  • Veteran Birth: The Gadfly Poems 1947-49 (1978)
  • Head-Deep in Strange Sounds: Free-Flight Improvisations from the unEnglish (1979)
  • The Strength of Fields (1979)
  • Falling, May Day Sermon, and Other Poems (1981)
  • The Early Motion (1981)
  • Puella (1982)
  • Värmland (1982)
  • False Youth: Four Seasons (1983)
  • For a Time and Place (1983)
  • Intervisions (1983)
  • The Central Motion: Poems 1968-79 (1983)
  • Bronwen, The Traw, and the Shape-Shifter: A Poem in Four Parts (1986)
  • The Eagle's Mile (1990)
  • The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1949-92 (1992)
  • Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like the Bee
  • To The White Sea (1993)

External links

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