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James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Series) Paperback – September 30, 1998
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"For years we have needed a judicious selection from the poems of James Dickey, a book that would bring new readers to the best of his work. With generosity and tact, Robert Kirschten has given us that book." (David Mason)
"An accessible and wieldy representation of Dickey's verse for specialists, students, and the general reader." (Sydney Lea)
From the Publisher
6 x 9 trim. LC 98-24045
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most of Dickey's poetry is difficult reading,
some is at or beyond the limit of my comprehension.
but on pages 31-32 is a simple, eloquent
poetic masterpiece, The Heaven of Animals;
for me this one creation justifies this purchase.
Please, please, take this poem to heart.
Dickey is a masculine poet. That is to say, many of his poems will undoubtedly appeal more to men than women, and many of his subjects are masculine-oriented. "Drinking From a Helmet" and "The Firebombing" tell of his experiences in World War II (no machismo here - rather the simple, sad reflections on the pointlessness of destruction, but still a clearly masculine voice), "False Youth" gives us a glimpse at Dickey in late-middle age, a little slower, clothes a little tighter. "The Bee", though, remains with me. A few lines to give you a sense of his style:
"Old wingback, come
To life. If your knee action is high
Enough, the fat may fall in time G - D
You, Dickey *dig* this is your last time to cut
And run, but you must give it everything you have
Left, for screaming near your screaming child is the sheer
Murder of California traffic: some bee hangs driving
Blindly onto the highway. Get there however
Is still possible. ..."
The frantic, heart-racing panic a parent feels for a child is communicated with an immeadiacy and clarity that forces you to relive the moment - it is a powerful poem. Would Dickey appeal to female readers? Certainly - but there is no escaping the gender in his voice.
I realize that for some "poetry" and "masculinity" may appear to be an oxymoron. I disagree. Certainly Dickey will not be to everyone's taste, and some of his poems are a bit heavy on the testosterone and too flavored of the south ("Buckdancer's Choice" is an example of this); to be honest, I don't like *every* poem in the collection. On the balance, though, there are more good poems - honest poems - than bad.
Dickey hs a talent for startling, vibrant explorations of nature in all its beauty and especially its monstrosity, with the latter earning Dickey about as many detractors as fans. Though he is often considered a quintessentially "male" poet in terms of subject matter, his work also has a strong feminine current in it.
Dickey is not as widely published as he should be, so I recommend that you take advantage of this opportunity to know more about Dickey than what you saw in the movie (many more people know the movie than have read the book Deliverance).