James Dickey

Rookie (2 February 1923 – 19 January 1997 / Atlanta, Georgia)

James Dickey
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James Lafayette Dickey was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1966.


Early Years

James Dickey was born to lawyer Eugene Dickey and Maibelle Swift in Atlanta, Georgia where he attended North Fulton High School in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. In 1942 he enrolled at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina 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 squadron during the Second World War, and in the ... more »

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  • Frank Avon (10/28/2014 8:28:00 PM)

    Along with Howard Nemerov, one of the truly great poets of the last half-century - but not nearly so admirable a person. So many of his splendid poems are not listed here - ones that I would freely list among my favorites: 'Walking on Water, ' 'The Lifeguard, ' 'Listening to Foxhounds, ' 'A Screened Porch in the Country, ' 'Approaching Prayer, ' 'Angina, ' 'The Sheep Child' (in its original typographical form, lost in the PH version) , 'Buckdancer's Choice, ' among others.

    Perhaps the most authentic reflection of his own experience, the most accurate reflection of the man he became, is the carefully crafted 'Adultery.' If I were listing what I consider his best poems, it would place near the top, but it is not one of my personal favorites. My personal favorite, I suppose, is 'Hospital Window, ' for it depicts his experience and my own, as well as so many others': the last responsibility of our fathers is to teach us how to face death.

    His poery - much, much of it - is characterized by its passionate intensity, yet also the everyday ordinariness of its experiential sources, and most especially by the mythic dimensions of his vision. Almost always he deals with something that happens everyday, whether to men or animals; but almost always there is a veil of the supernatural cast over the experience, revealing its dark shadows, its psychological depths, and Dickey's inability ultimately to access the infinite toward which he's always reaching.

    I say, MEN and animals, for his women are mostly scenery: schoolgirls (first loves) , on the one hand, or mythologized demi-goddesses on the other - or quite simply absent, in absentia, not accessible. Dickey - the ex-football player, the flyer in WWII and Korea, the former advertising agent - himself graduates to become a Stereotype, the Visiting Pofessor - alcoholic, womanizer, faithless husband, alienated father, the Object of Public Attention (particularly after the Burt-Reynolds movie of his novel 'Deliverance) . And always beyond him, the Infinite he did not (could not) attain except in momentary, orgiastic detachment.

    His poetry is fascinating. He first came to my attention sometime in the mid-sixties with a poem in The New Yorker. 'Falling, ' is based on an actual occurrence (reported in a newspaper clipping) , the loss of a stewardess from a plane flying high over mid-America. Her destiny is to fall, fall, fall to her death ('AH, GOD' are the last words) , but in so doing to achieve mythic meaning - to fall, as it were, into divinity.

    I am currently working on my own poem, a monologue called 'J. D. and She, ' spoken by one of the women with whom the Visiting Professor had casual - but not so satisfying - sex.

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Best Poem of James Dickey

The Heaven Of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and...

Read the full of The Heaven Of Animals
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