Dust Jacket Biography
A native of Atlanta, James Dickey served in World War II, during which he logged more than 50 combat flights. After earning his BA and MA degrees from Vanderbilt University, he taught literature and worked in advertising. In 1965, he won the National Book Award and the Poetry Society of America's Melville Cane Award for a collection of poems, Buckdancer's Choice. He served as Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress from 1966-68 and joined the University of South Carolina as poet-in-residence in 1968, subsequently being named the first Carolina Professor. His first novel, Deliverance (1970), received the French Prix Medicis. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. USC awarded him an honorary Doctor of Literature degree in 1990. In 1996, he received the Harriet Monroe Prize for lifetime achievement in American Letters. He died on Jan. 19, 1997, in Columbia, South Carolina.
Brief Biographical Sketch
Dickey, James (1923- 97), U.S. writer. One of the United States most distinguished poets and winner of the National Book Award for poetry, James Dickey was also a lecturer, teacher, critic, essayist, and novelist. He was perhaps best known as the author of the novel Deliverance (1970).
James Lafayette Dickey was born in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 2, 1923. In his youth he was involved in sports and was a freshman starter on the Clemson College varsity football team. In 1942, after one year in college, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served as a fighter-bomber pilot. He flew more than 100 missions in the Pacific for the 418th Night Fighter Squadron, and between missions he studied literature in base libraries. After World War II Dickey attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. The English major was also a track star and won the state championship in the 120-yard high hurdles. He graduated in 1949 and earned his master's degree, also from Vanderbilt, in 1950.
Before being called back to duty in the Korean War, Dickey taught English at Rice Institute. During the war he sold his first poem, "Shark in the Window".
Unable to support his family on a teacher's salary at the University of Florida, he went to work for an advertising agency in New York City. His first collection of poetry, Into the Stone and Other Poems, was published in 1960. Despite a successful career in advertising, in 1961 Dickey decided to devote himself to his poetry. During his years as poet in residence at Reed College in Portland, Ore., San Fernando Valley State College in Los Angeles, and the University of Wisconsin, he published the poetry collections Drowning with Others (1962), Helmets (1964), and Two Poems in the Air (1964), and a collection of essays.
From 1966 to 1968 Dickey served as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. He was awarded the National Book Award for poetry in 1966 for Buckdancer's Choice.
Dickey settled in Columbia, S.C., in 1968, where he was poet in residence and a professor of English at the University of South Carolina. In 1970 the novel Deliverance, which took Dickey seven years to write, was published to high praise. He also wrote the screenplay for the popular 1972 motion picture based on the novel and appeared in the movie. He died on Jan. 19, 1997, in Columbia.
His poetry often featured pilots, football players, and backwoodsmen, and themes included nature, metaphysics, history, and religion. His works were admired for their clarity, passion, and strength. He published more than 20 books, including the collections of poetry Poems 1947-1967 (1967), The Zodiac (1976), and The Whole Motion (1992); and the collections of essays Babel to Byzantium: Poets & Poetry Now (1968), Self-Interviews (1970), and Jericho: The South Beheld (1974).
1923: James Lafayette Dickey born on February 2 in the Atlanta suburb of Buckhead, the son of lawyer Eugene Dickey and Maibelle Swift Dickey.
1941: Graduates from North Fulton High School in Buckhead. WIns award from Society of Colonial Daughters for his essay "Essay on Patriotism."
1942: Enrolls at Clemson A&M; College, where he plays in the backfield on the frshman football team. Leaves school before the end of the first term to enlist in the Army Air Corps.
1944: Trains as night-fighter radar observer.
1945: Joins 418th Night Fighter Squadron in the Philippines. Later serves on Okinawa and in Japan; earns five bronze stars and promoted to second lieutenant.
1946: Leaves military service and enrolls at Vanderbilt University, where he majors in English and philosophy and minors in astronomy. Between 1947-1949 publishes four poems in The Gadfly, Vanderbilt's literary magazine.
1948: Marries Maxine Syerson on November 4. Poem "The Shark at the Window" is accepted by The Sewanee Review.
1949: Receives B.A. in English and graduates magna cum laude from Vanderbilt.
1950: Receives M.A. in English from Vanderbilt. Teaches at Rice Institute in Houston, Texas until he is recalled to the Air Force for service in Korea.
1951: Son, Christopher Dickey, is born on August 31.
1952: Returns to Rice where he teaches until 1954.
1954: Receives Sewanee Review fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation and leaves Rice to write in Europe in the summer of 1954.
1955: Joins English faculty at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
1956: Resigns from the University of Florida over a dispute concerning his reading of his poem "The Father's Body." Begins successful career as an advertising copywriter and executive for McCann-Erickson agency in New York, and later for different agencies in Atlanta.
1958: Second son, Kevin Dickey, is born on August 18. Receives Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Prize from Union League Club of Chicago for "Dover: Believing in Kings."
1959: Wins Longview Foundation Award and Vachel Lindsay Prize.
1960: Publication of Into the Stone and Other Poems in Poets of Today VII.
1961: Resigns from his advertising positions.
1962: Publication of Drowning With Others. Travels with his family to Europe on Guggenheim Fellowship.
1963: Becomes Poet-in-Residence at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
1964: Publication of Helmets, The Suspect in Poetry, and Two Poems of the Air. Becomes Poet-in-Residence at San Fernando Valley State College, Northbridge, California.
1965: Publication of Buckdancer's Choice. Teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
1966: Receives Melville Crane Award from the Poetry Society of America for Buckdancer's Choice. Serves as Poet-in-Residence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Presented the National Book Award for Buckdancer's Choice. Receives grant of $2,500 for creative work in literature by the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Becomes Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress (title later changed to Poet Laureate) until 1968.
1967: Publication of Poems 1957-1967 and Spinning the Crystal Ball.
1968: Publication of Babel to Byzantium: Poets and Poetry Now and Metaphor as Pure Adventure.
1969: Named Poet-in-Residence and First Carolina Professor of English, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
1970: Publication of Deliverance; The Eye-Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy; and Self-Interviews.
1971: Publication of Sorties and Exchanges. Named poetry editor for Esquire. Deliverance wins Prix Medicis for best foreign-language book published in France. Production begins on the movie version of Deliverance, for which Dickey writes the screenplay and plays the role of Sheriff Bullard.
1972: Inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The movie Deliverance is nominated for an Academy Award.
1974: Publication of Jericho: The South Beheld.
1976: Writes screenplay for the television production of Jack London's Call of the Wild. Publication of Zodiac. Maxine DIckey dies October 28. Marries Deborah Dodson December 30.
1977: Reads "The Strength of Fields" at President Jimmy Carter's inaugural celebration at the Kennedy Center on January 19. Publication of The Owl King and God's Images.
1978: Publication of Tucky the Hunter, Veteran Birth, The Enemy From Eden, In Pursuit of the Grey Soul, and Head-Deep in Strange Sounds.
1979: Publication of The Strength of Fields. Gives lecture on Ezra Pound, The Water-Bug's Mittens: What We Can Use, at the University of Idaho.
1980: Publication of Scion.
1981: Daughter, Bronwen Dickey, is born on May 17. Publication of The Starry Place Between the Antlers: Why I Live In South Carolina and The Early Motion. Receives the Levinson Prize for five poems from Puella published in Poetry.
1982: Publication of Deliverance screenplay, Puella, and Värmland.
1983: Publication of Night Hurdling, False Youth: Four Seasons, and The Central Motion: Poems, 1968-1979.
1985: Publication of limited edition Puella.
1986: Publication of Bronwen, the Traw, and the Shape-Shifter.
1987: Publication of Alnilam.
1988: Publication of Wayfarer: A Voice from the Southern Mountains. May 18, induction into the 50-member American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Assigned Chair #15, previously occupied by scholar Wilbur Cross, painter Raphael Soyer, and novelist John Steinbeck.
1989: Accepts appointment as judge for Yale Series of Younger Poets competition (serves until 1996).
1990: Publication of The Eagle's Mile.
1991: Publication of Southern Light.
1992: Publication of The Whole Motion: Collected Poems, 1945-1992.
1993: Publication of To The White Sea. USC celebrates James Dickey at 70.
1994: Hospitalized with jaundice.
1995: World War II Writers Symposium held at USC, featuring Dickey, William Styron, Paul Fussell, Jospeh Heller, William Manchester, and Mikey Spillane.
1996: Publication of Striking In: The Early Notebooks of James Dickey. Afflicted with fibrosis of the lungs. Receives the Harriet Monroe Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry.
1997: Teaches last class at USC January 14. Dies January 19.
* Essay Award from The Society of Colonial Daughters, 1941
* Union League Civic and Arts Foundation Prize from Union League Club of Chicago, 1958
* Longview Foundation Award, 1959
* Vachel Lindsay Prize, 1959
* Melville Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America, 1966
* National Book Award for Buckdancer's Choice, 1966
* Prix Medicis for best foreign-language book, Deliverance published in France, 1971
* Levinson Prize, 1981
* Harriet Monroe Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry, 1996
* Graduates Magna Cum Laude at Vanderbilt University, 1949
* Sewanee Review fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation, 1954
* Guggenheim Fellowship, 1962
* National Institute of Arts and Letters Grant, 1966
* Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress (title later changed to Poet Laureate), 1966
* Nominated for Academy Award for Deliverance, 1972
* Inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1972
* Reads "The Strength of Fields" at President Jimmy Carter's inaugural celebration, 1977
* Inducted into the 50-member American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (assigned Chair #15, previously occupied by scholar Wilbur Cross, painter Raphael Soyer, and novelist John Steinbeck), 1988
* Accepts appointment as judge for Yale Series of Younger Poets competition (served until 1996), 1989