For nearly four decades, until his death in 1997, Georgia-born James Dickey was one of the nation's most important and active literary figures. He left a broad and deep literary legacy, a full body of poetry, prose, and criticism characterized by an intense, imaginative exploration of the relations between nature and humanity. Dickey's poetry in particular attracted widespread critical attention during his lifetime, and his career, which in later years grew to include a repertoire of prose, novels, screenwriting, and critical as well as children's books, will likely be an enduring object of scholarship for many years to come.
Dickey graduated from Atlanta's North Fulton High in 1941 and attended Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, 1941-1942. After college (at Clemson and Vanderbilt), military service (in fighter planes during World War II and as an instructor in Korea), and periods of teaching and post graduate studies in Texas, Florida, and Europe, Dickey detoured away from a poetry/teaching career to become a successful advertising writer and executive in New York.
In Atlanta in 1961, he returned to writing full-time after leaving his advertising job and receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship to write and publish his first collection of poetry, Into the Stone and Other Poems . Growing recognition and publication success led to stints at various schools as poet-in-residence. In 1966, Dickey received both the National Book Award and the Melville Cane Award of the Poetry Society of America for his fourth book, Buckdancer's Choice. He was later named poetry consultant at the Library of Congress (1966-1968), and after that was appointed poet-in-residence at the University of South Carolina, where he remained until his death in 1997.
Although Dickey's first love and focus was poetry (his career included more than 20 volumes of verse), his greatest popular fame grew out of his first novel, Deliverance (1970). The novel won France's Prix Medicis (for best foreign book of the year) and became an Academy Award-nominated film for which Dickey wrote the screenplay.
Although he was an internationally known figure, Dickey's Georgia roots remained ever a part of his native South. This point was emphasized in 1976 when fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter invited Dickey to compose and read a poem for Carter's presidential inauguration. Such recognition and work literally continued right up until his death at age 73. In 1988 he was inducted into the fifty-member American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1989 he was selected as a judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. In his seventies Dickey remained a prolific, energetic writer, and at the time of his death, he was teaching classes while working on a novel and a movie adaptation of To the White Sea.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Dickey and Emory University Libraries.
The following titles may be found in the Hall of Fame Library:
Gene Bullard. Charles Fries Productions, Studio City , 19XX.
Drowning with Others. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1962.
Helmets. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1964.
The Suspect in Poetry. Madison, Minn.: Sixties Press, 1964.
Two Poems of the Air. Portland, Ore.: Genticore Press, 1964.
Buckdancer's Choice. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1965.
Poems 1957-1967. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1967.
Spinning the Crystal Ball. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1967.
Babel to Byzantium: Poets and Poetry Now. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968.
The Achievement of James Dickey: a Comprehensive Selection of his Poems with a Critical Introduction [by] Laurence Lieberman. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman 1968.
Metaphor as Pure Adventure. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1968.
Deliverance. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.
The Eye-Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970.
Forløsning / Pa Dansk ved Knud Søgaard. Gyldendal, c1970.
Self-Interviews. Recorded and edited by Barbara and James Reiss. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970.
Exchanges. Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: Bruccoli Clark, 1971.
Sorties. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.
Flodfard Norstedt, Stockholm: 1971.
Flussfahrt : Roman.; Deutsch von Jürgen Abel. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1971.
Forlosning. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1971.
Jericho: The South Beheld. Text by Dickey, illustrations by Hubert Shuptrine. Birmingham, Ala.: Oxmoor House, 1974.
The Strength of Fields. [single poem] Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark, 1977.
The Shark at the Window: (For My Brother's Marriage). Winston-Salem , N.C.: Palaemon Press, 1977.
The Owl King. New York: Red Angel Press, 1977.
The Enemy from Eden. Northridge, Calif.: Lord John Press, 1978.
Tucky the Hunter. Text by Dickey, illustration by Marie Angel. New York: Crown, 1978.
Veteran Birth: The Gadfly Poems 1947-1949. Salem, N.C.: Palaemon Press, 1978.
Head-Deep in Strange Sounds. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Palaemon Press, 1978.
The Water-Bug's Mittens: Ezra Pound: What We Can Use. Moscow: University of Idaho, 1979.
The Strength of Fields [collection] Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979.
Scion. Deerfield, Mass.: Deerfield Press, 1980.
The Early Motion. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1981.
The Starry Place Between the Antlers: Why I Live in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark, 1981.
Babel to Byzantium: Poets & Poetry Now. New York: Ecco Press, 1981, c1968.
Puella. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982.
Varmland. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Palaemon Press, 1982.
False Youth: Four Seasons. Dallas: Pressworks, 1983.
Intervisions: Poems and Photographs. Penland, N.C.: Visualternatives, 1983.
Night Hurdling: Poems, Essays, Conversations, Commencements, and Afterwords. Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark, 1983.
Sorties. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1984.
Self-interviews. Recorded and edited by Barbara and James Reiss. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984, c1970.
Bronwen, the Traw, and the Shape-Shifter. Text by Dickey, illustrations by Richard Jesse Watson. New York: Bruccoli Clark, 1986.
Alnilam. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987.
Fiore, Quentin and Bruccoli Clark Layman. Summons. Columbia , S.C.: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 1988.
To the White Sea . Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
"Struggling for Wings": the art of James Dickey. Robert Kirschten, ed. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, c1997.
James Dickey: the Selected Poems. edited and with an introduction by Robert Kirschten. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, c1998.
Crux: the Letters of James Dickey / Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman, editors. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Deliverance: A Screenplay. Ipswich, England, UK: Screenpress Publishing Ltd., 2003.
The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life. 2 vols. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003-2005.
Classes on Modern Poets and the Art of Poetry. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.
MOTION PICTURES & VIDEO RECORDINGS
Firing line: Host, William F. Buckley, Jr.; guest, James Dickey. Subject: What has happened to the American spirit? Student participants: Margaret Blain, Clark DuRant [and] Ralph Wafer. Columbia, S.C.: Southern Educational Communications Association, 1971.
Deliverance, screenplay by Dickey, Warner Bros., 1972.
Call of the Wild, screenplay by Dickey, Charles Fries, 1976.
James Dickey: [videorecording], written by Dickey, George Plimpton, University of S.C., and the South Carolina Educational Television, a production of the University of South Carolina and the South Carolina, 1992.
John Irving; James Dickey: videorecording, written by Dickey, Irving, John, University of S.C., and the South Carolina Educational Television, a joint production of the University of South Carolina and the South Carolina ETV Network, 1992.
Special Collections Department of the Emory University Libraries in Atlanta, Georgia holds an extensive amount of Dickey's letters, manuscripts, notebooks, military records, teaching materials, subject files, sound recordings, photographs, and printed material.
The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. houses a number of manuscript holdings.
Washington University Libraries in Saint Louis, Missouri houses a small number of manuscripts.
Born: February 2, 1923
Buckhead (Atlanta), Georgia
Died: January 19, 1997
Columbia, South Carolina