As I look up from my laptop, I can see the dogwood that fills my study window every spring with bloom, and the crepe myrtle just beyond, blooming now in this summer’s wicked heat. What two things? Though my chair had originally suggested I should visit Dickey in the hospital to update him on the class, when he called me later that evening, he said I didn’t have to interact with Dickey again unless he were also present. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Robert Duncan, (let’s throw in T.S. I think about that amazing poem, “The Shark’s Parlor,” which USC’s MFA students have taken on as the name for their monthly readings. "I came to poetry with no particular qualifications," Dickey stated in Howard Nemerov's Poets on Poetry. Hart’s biography also makes it clear that behind Dickey’s drunken womanizing persona lay a deep fascination with homosexuality—and perhaps anxieties about his own ambiguous sexual impulses. And I was thinking: where is this anger coming from? When Dickey taught the graduate poetry workshop at USC, he taught it as a two-semester course, the first a series of exercises in formal verse (ballads, sestinas, sonnets, villanelles), the second semester focusing on poems based on dreams, fantasies, lies. But I know that’s not the world of Dickey. A recently hired assistant professor, I had had little interaction before with Dickey. I went to a junior faculty happy hour, still shaken, and told my colleagues. 1970. He had been a military man (in both World War II and the Korean War), an ad man (in New York and Atlanta), and a college English teacher. Encouraged to write more poetry, Dickey spent his senior year focusing on his craft, and eventually had a poem published in the Sewanee Review. From 1966 to 1968, Dickey held the position of Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, an office that would later become the Poet Laureate. (You can unsubscribe anytime). It was a poetry workshop. Dickey inspired and nurtured many poets, and we offer the award in his spirit. Dickey was a poet, novelist, critic, lecturer, and one of the original Buckhead Boys. The Whole Motion: Collected Poems, 1945-1992. Dickey died on Sunday evening, Jan. 19, 1997. At the age of thirty-three, Dickey moved to New York City, where he was hired to write advertising copy at the prominent McCann-Ericson agency. Dickey then taught, lectured, and wrote. Dickey was born to lawyer Eugene Dickey and Maibelle Swift in Atlanta, Georgia, where he attended North Fulton High School in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. In 1960, Dickey's first collection, Into the Stone and Other Poems, was published, and he soon abandoned his lucrative career to devote his life to writing poetry full-time. Dickey started teaching at the University of South Carolina in the spring of 1969. The book, which was later made into a major motion picture, exposed readers to scenes of violence and nightmarish horror, much as his poetry had done. A startled [colleague] happened to walk in on them. In it, an enormous hammerhead shark is baited with buckets of entrails and blood and hooked with a run-over pup by two boys drunk on the “first brassy taste of beer.” With the help of other men, they drag the shark out of the sea, dragging it by accident all the way into a beach house, where it thrashes the place to pieces, “throwing pints of blood over everything we owned.”. James Lafayette Dickey (* 2. The Heaven Of Animals, For The Last Wolverine, The Hospital Window The Heaven Of Animals, For The Last Wolverine, The Hospital Window . Talk on, I said.”. “So now, as far as I knew,” Dickey writes in the collection of essays Night Hurdling (1983), “South Carolina was soybeans, illiteracy, and maybe even pellagra and hookworm, and my chief mental image of it was of a dilapidated outhouse and a rusty ’34 Ford with a number 13 painted on it, both covered by kudzu.” It’s like a scene from a bad movie (or Deliverance) or maybe a memory from the brief period Dickey played football at Clemson, before leaving school to join the Army Air Corps during the Second World War. Dickey’s numerous poetry collections include The Whole Motion: Collected Poems, 1945-1992; The Eagle’s Mile (1990); The Strength of Fields (1979); Buckdancer’s Choice (1965), which received both the National … From 1966 to 1968, just before his move to South Carolina, he had served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress (a position that would later become Poet Laureate). In my writing classes, I sometimes give an assignment: write a poem or an essay as an act of revenge. Dickey asked to be dismissed from the Darlington rolls in a 1981 letter to the principal, deeming the school the most "disgusting combination of cant, hypocrisy, cruelty, class privilege and inanity I have ever since encount… Such writing may not see print, but the students seem energized to tap into that darkness, that wild and visceral well of suppressed emotion that can gush up, surprisingly. I don’t remember ever hearing him read. I love that in books of poetry filled with darkness, light is a name for how we connect with one another, for what we can do, for the things we need to say. I fumbled through a response about how I didn’t have any ax to grind and hung up the phone, stunned by Dickey’s three-fold threat. In between combat missions in the Pacific, he read the work of Conrad Aiken and an anthology of modern poetry by Louis Untermeyer, and developed a taste for the apocalyptic poets, including Dylan Thomas and Kenneth Patchen. Later, I give them a related but perhaps more difficult assignment: write a poem as an act of forgiveness. Hanover and London: Wesleyan UP, 1992. Under every rock, a rattlesnake. I love these poems of transformation—humans becoming godlike, gods that are mere men. Flowers and birds? In Henry Hart’s biography, James Dickey: The World as a Lie (2000), Hart says that in these last days Dickey found it galling that someone was taking his place in the classroom, so he lashed out at me. I heard the news of his death on NPR the next morning, as I sat at the breakfast table with my partner. In Dickey’s best poems, he seems to be in touch with some kind of wild darkness, literal and metaphorical. "I had begun to suspect, however, that there is a poet—or a kind of poet—buried in every human being like Ariel in his tree, and that the people whom we are pleased to call poets are only those who have felt the need and contrived the means to release this spirit from its prison.". Every afternoon this week, a hummingbird whirs among the zinnias and the canna lilies. In 1970, he penned his best-selling novel, Deliverance. I can’t think about it without a sense of revulsion.” Hart adds, “What revolted him when sober, however, had often titillated him when drunk.”. Two of his most famous volumes of verse, Helmets (1964) and Buckdancer's Choice (1965), for which he was awarded both the Melville Cane Award and National Book Award, were published soon after.