James Dickey

James Dickey: An Appreciation


A few early poems:

James Dickey (1923-1997) was, to my mind, simultaneously one of the most well known and one of the least appreciated authors in America. Most people are aware of Dickey’s work even if they themselves don’t know that they are: his novel Deliverance won the prestigious French Prix Medicis and was later made into an Academy award-winning film in the early seventies that almost everyone has seen (or heard thanks to its famous “Dueling Banjo” soundtrack).

But Dickey’s first love—and he explicitly made this point many times—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. 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. I heartily recommend his fiction to anyone, but I strongly suggest that anyone who hopes to write poetry today be familiar with Dickey’s work.