James Dickey

James Dickey (1923-1997) was an American author and poet whose work brought him international recognition as well as innumerable awards. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Dickey's urban Southern roots are clearly evident throughout his poetry. Dickey began his college education at Clemson University, but left at the outbreak of World War II to enlist in the United States Army Air Force. His experiences as a fighter pilot provided him with subject matter for some of his best known poems. Dickey subsequently completed both B.A. and M.A. degrees at Vanderbilt University where among his teachers was the critic Monroe K. Spears, who was influential in directing Dickey's interest toward poetry.

Dickey began writing poetry in 1947, but turned to writing full-time only in 1960 when his first book, Into the Stone and Other Poems, was published. In 1966, Dickey was awarded the National Book Award for his second poetry collection, Buckdancer's Choice. He received international acclaim and popularity for his 1970 novel and 1972 screenplay, Deliverance. In his verse, fiction and criticism, Dickey did not shy away from controversial topics or opinions. He rejected the popular style of confessional poetry, embraced the primitive impulses and examined the brutal conflicts between civilization and nature.

Dickey served as poetry consultant for the Library of Congress (now known as Poetry Laureate of the United States), was the author of more than 17 books of poems and 12 books of prose, and taught as poet-in-residence at University of South Carolina from 1968 to 1997.

Go here to explore the finding aid for the James Dickey Papers and other Dickey resources at Washington University.

Modern Literature Collection: The First Fifty Years