James Dickey - Biography and Works

James Dickey was one of the most well known and one of the least appreciated authors in America in the mid century; but Dickey’s first love was poetry. And strangely, despite being more popularly known for his fiction, it was in his poetry that Dickey was truly something of a revolutionary.

James Dickey (1923-1997)

Sometimes it is the case that a pervasive influence on poetry is known most fully only to other poets, particularly if the poet is one who, like Dickey, is primarily known for a single piece of fiction. Dickey’s early work, particularly the volumes Into the Stone and Drowning with Others bears a particular resemblance to that of Roethke.

Very often, Dickey’s poems are concerned with the mystical connection between animals and man. But of more fundamental import to poets is the methods by which he attempts to subsume these themes within a restrictive form. Dickey tends to avoid the explicit traditional forms but still captures their essence. Any poet who has attempted to write in one of the repeating French forms realizes the difficulty in getting the repeated words or lines to carry new meaning and depth each time the recur. He is adept at achieving a unity between a "free verse" and a deep structure.

As a body, Dickey’s poetry contains its fair share of clunkers and even downright disasters, often in the service of structural and narrative experimentation. This partially accounts both, for his relative obscurity outside of the literary world and his extreme importance within it. His untimely death leaves a void in terms of historical resource and in terms of an active and engaging poet whose work is underappreciated not only for its instructive value, but also for its rare beauty, courage, honesty and intensity.

A prominent figure in contemporary American literature, Dickey is best known for this intense exploration of the primal, irrational, creative, and ordering forces in life. Often classified as a visionary Romantic in the tradition of Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, and Theodore Roethke, Dickey emphasizes the primacy of imagination and examines the relationship between humanity and nature.

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Shrestha, Roma. "James Dickey - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 10 Nov. 2013, bachelorandmaster.com/biography/james-dickey.html.

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