Hello to you few extraordinary people who may view this blog.

A retired professor of English, I chose to blog on the Word Press platform in order to a) keep myself busy, and b) learn how to use Word Press.

Posted in Teacher/Editor/Writer | Leave a comment

work with such …

work with such misconceptions for whatever hint of insight–the making of a truth–they may contain: that fragment of existence which could not be seen in any other way and may with great good luck, as in the best poetry, be better than the truth” (Night Hurdling xi). I wish to suggest, therefore, that in his early poetic treatment of women, Dickey consciously used mythic archetypes to depict what Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces calls the Queen Goddess of the World. My discussion primarily centers on certain short, overlooked, or unexamined poems, both published and unpublished, in that longer works such as “Falling” and “May Day Sermon” have been numerously examined by critics and that, in any event, these poems also support my contention. In narrowing my topic and making this assertion, I am conscious that Dickey’s image as macho or Byronic, what Calhoun and Hill refer to as his “sexual legendry” and “nearly Rabelaisian experiences” (138, 2), has influenced previous criticism and renders debatable any interpretation of, say, “The Earth Drum” or “A Morning,” two unpublished poems discussed below that are dominated by a distinctly male perspective.1

             In an overlooked essay entitled “Complicity” and published in Night Hurdling (1983), Dickey notes the poet Paul Claudel’s view of Woman as “the promise that cannot be kept,” and be then declares: “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it–the real earth, and not just the enchanted fragment of it that blazes in the longing mind to furnish and down in it–the real earth, and not just the enchanted fragment of it that blazes in the longing mind to furnish

 3

 her setting–she becomes a hidden archetype to the beholder rendered god-like by her presence: his possession and promise, soulless and soulful at the same time, receding, flashing up with a terrible certainty at the most inopportune times that she then makes opportune” (217). Such a view of women as mythic incarnations of the female principle receives earlier attention in Dickey’s discussion of his poem “The Enclosure.” Referring to the nurses the airmen saw in World War II as they were trucked to the awaiting planes, Dickey states: “they were unmistakenly women. They had the inaccessibility I’ve always deemed such an important part of the man-woman relationship: the idealization of woman. You can see this idea in many places, not just in my poems” (Self-Interviews 91). Dickey’s comments suggest that he, and by extension all men, views women as idealized figures whose

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

2 “Stand wait…

2

 

“Stand waiting, my love, where you are”:

Women in James Dickey’s Early Poetry

By Gordon Van Ness

             In assessing James Dickey’s poetry, critics have often focused on his wide-ranging variety of thematic concerns, recognizing the interrelation of the topics themselves and their often biographical connection to the artist. Ronald Baughman, for example, states that as Dickey “treats his major subjects–war, family, love, social man, and nature­­­­­­–the writer is working out his constantly evolving perspective as a survivor” (8). Richard Calhoun and Robert Hill have written of his “emotional primitivism,” which Dickey himself defines only as that “condition where we can connect with whatever draws us” (136). Critics have felt, in other words, that attempts to confront narrow aspects within Dickey’s poetry invariably risk distortion and oversimplification. As Robert Kirschten in the most recently published book on the poetry admits: “Indeed, his subject matter is as mixed as his emotional effects,” a realization which necessitates four “hypotheses” to scrutinize Dickey’s “lyric universe” (3).

            Yet, if examination of a single subject within Dickey’s poetry invites misconception because of its specialized focus, it nevertheless may offer large insights, the possibility of identifying some unified field theory, as it were, by which to understand Dickey’s “universe.” As Dickey himself notes regarding the whole question of identity, “one must work with such misconceptions for whatever hint of insight–the making of a truth–they may contain: that fragment of existence which could not be seen in any other way and may with great good luck, as in the best poetry, be better than the truth” (Night Hurdling xi). I wish to suggest, therefore, that in his early poetic treatment of women, Dickey consciously used mythic archetypes to depict what Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces calls the Queen Goddess of the World. My discussion primarily centers on certain short, overlooked, or unexamined poems, both published and unpublished, in that longer works such as “Falling” and “May Day Sermon” have been numerously examined by critics and that, in any event, these poems also support my contention. In narrowing my topic and making this assertion, I am conscious that Dickey’s image as macho or Byronic, what Calhoun and Hill refer to as his “sexual legendry” and “nearly Rabelaisian experiences” (138, 2), has influenced previous criticism and renders debatable any interpretation of, say, “The Earth Drum” or “A Morning,” two unpublished poems discussed below that are dominated by a distinctly male perspective.1

             In an overlooked essay entitled “Complicity” and published in Night Hurdling (1983), Dickey notes the poet Paul Claudel’s view of Woman as “the promise that cannot be kept,” and be then declares: “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it–the real earth, and not just the enchanted fragment of it that blazes in the longing mind to furnish and down in it–the real earth, and not just the enchanted fragment of it that blazes in the longing mind to furnish

 

3

 

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Bibliography

Works Cited
Abram, David. The Spell Of The Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Pantheon, 1996. Print.

Arnett, David. L. “An Interview With James Dickey.” The Voiced Connections of James Dickey: Interviews and Conversations. Ed. Ronald Baughman. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1989. 71-83. Print.

Baughman, Ronald. “James Dickey at Drury College.” James Dickey Newsletter 5.1 (Fall 1988): 16-25. Print.

Berry, Thomas. “The Viable Human.” Deep Ecology for the 21st Century: Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New Environmentalism. Ed. George Sessions. Boston: Shambhala, 1995. 8-18. Print.

Butterworth, Keen. “The Savage Mind: James Dickey’s Deliverance.” Southern Literary Journal. 28:2 (Spring 1966). 69-79. Print.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

18 D: Well, I …

18

D: Well, I have more lately than I ever did before, and it’s been of great advantage to me. “The far orchards blazing with slant”—something like that. “The far orchards blazing with slant.”
S: I can see the light.
D: Yeah. There’s a lot you can do with that approach. I gave the Peters-Rushton seminars at the University of Virginia on Hart Crane some years back. [Telephone rings and Dickey answers.] We were talking about the language-oriented poetry versus the so-called reality poetry. As I say, beginning with Puella, I began to work more with the language side of things, and I’ve never regretted it. People say, “Oh, God, Dickey’s poetry has fallen off—the late work.” Not so, it’s just changed. If you don’t do what they expect of you, they think you are declining. It’s not so—you are growing, or at least you are changing. That’s necessary. I see so many American poets who had a little success with doing a thing a certain way early on, some of them hardly more than kids, and they are now old men, and they have never changed because they were afraid to tamper with what worked for them when they were young. Therefore, they haven’t grown; they haven’t deepened. Some of these poets who are skillful and likable, and so on, have never been anything but that. They don’t move you. They are just skillful. They are like these southern girls who move to the north, and everybody says to them, “Now my dear, whatever you do, don’t ever lose that wonderful southern accent,” with the result that in a couple of months they are talking like Amos and Andy.
S: Let me ask you a question about the ending of To the White Sea, and I want to set it up by reading just a little part of that. At the end of To the White Sea, Muldrow says—and I don’t read this as well as you do…
D: That’s all right.
S: “I was in it and part of it. I matched it all. And I will be everywhere in it from now on. You will be able to hear me, just like you’re hearing me now, everywhere in it, for the first time and the last, as soon as I close my eyes.” My question is…
D: What happens to him?
S: Well, that too, but also, can we read this possibly as symbolic of what happens to the writer over the course of his career, becoming the word itself?
D: You might. You might. Yes, you might easily do that. Or, it might be what happens to the soul. Actually, what happens to him—you’ve read the whole thing haven’t you?
S: Yes.
D: Muldrow talks some in there, sometimes to somebody else, but mostly to himself, and he believes that…he’s lived as a hunter his whole life, since the cradle practically, as a hunter in the snow, in the whiteness and desolation, wind and cold, which he feels is his domain. And what happens to him at the end where that posse is shooting at him in that shack where he is staying and the bullets are going through him and everything—what happens—he’s always said that if you achieve the perfect camouflage, then you become where you are. You don’t have your own shape anymore; you’re just the environment that you have blended with, that this time you have blended with perfectly, so that there is nothing of you left. You have become where you are and have achieved the perfect camouflage by matching it. You have become it. You don’t just look like it, you are it. That has happened to him. He says also that the only way you can see some animals—their camouflage is so good—is by their eyes. But, if they close their eyes, that’s

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

StandWaitingfinal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Smith, Randy.  “Writer, Reader, Student:  Into the Maw of the Monster”

 

In the fall of 1991, I entered my second year as a master’s candidate in English at the University of South Carolina and enrolled in James Dickey’s “Seminar in Verse Composition: Part One” (ENGL 600).  At the time, fresh out of banking and new to the field of English, I was not sure that I knew what Dickey looked like or even that I had seen him on campus, but his reputation (and a few apocryphal stories) preceded my laying eyes on him.  So, with some mixture of fear, awe, excitement, and curiosity, I arrived early with other students at room 312 of the Humanities Classroom Building on the first day of class that August and waited for Dickey.  In my memory, we waited and waited and waited for Dickey to arrive—tension and anticipation building—but I am not sure that this really happened.  I am, however, sure about the next part.  One moment, students chatted and laughed casually; the doorway to the room was empty—the next, a large (and in my memory, larger-than-life) camouflaged man filled the door and hobbled into the room carrying two huge canvas suitcases.  At this point, student chatter ceased.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Call for Interviews

James Dickey Newsletter wants interviews (previously published or unpublished) with Jim Dickey, interviews of substance that address poetry theory, fiction theory, specific works, etc.   Reply here or to Joyce Morrow Pair at the Newsletter website:  jamesdickey.org.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment