James Dickey (1923-1997) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and is widely known as the author of the novel Deliverance. Less well known is his poetry, driven also by a surreal and archetypal sense of violence rather than by graceful subtlety or wit. (He served in both WWII and the Korean War, and was no stranger to violence.) In this, one of his few shorter poems, the reader can feel it just beneath the surface:
Coming next week: Emily Dickinson
A dog surroundingly howls.
Painfully he is changing
His voice from a voice for the moon
To the voice he has for the sun.
I stoop, and my hands are shining;
I have picked up a piece of the sea
To feel how a tall girl has swum
Yesterday in it too deeply,
And, below the light, has become
More naked than Eve in the garden.
I drop her strange body on the cobbles.
My hands are shining with fever,
And I understand
The long, changing word of the dog
With the moon dying out in his voice,
And the pain when the sun came up
For the first time on angel‑shut gates,
In its rays set closer than teeth.
Further Reading: To the white sea / James Dickey. ; 1993. ; Houghton Mifflin, and Deliverance /James Dickey. ; 1970. ; Houghton Mifflin. Both novels are available at our library.
Content developed by local resident and poet Leland Jamieson