Monday, November 5, 2012

Poetry Rock Stars You Should Know - Part I

“What you have to realize when you write poetry, or if you love poetry, is that poetry is just naturally the greatest god damn thing that ever was in the whole universe” - James Dickey

Southern poet James Lafayette Dickey (Lafayette gave him away as a Southerner, didn't it?) was the eighteenth United States Poet Laureate - then known as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress.

He was the kind of poet college football fans could really get behind. According to The Great Online Repository of all Things Mostly Accurate:

In 1942 he enrolled at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina and played on the football team as a tailback. After one semester, he left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps...Between the wars he attended Vanderbilt University, graduating with degrees in English and philosophy, as well as minoring in astronomy. He also taught at the University of Florida.

Dickey was invited to read his poem "The Strength of Fields" at President Jimmy Carter's inauguration in 1977.

"The Strength of Fields" is not what anyone would consider an entry-level poem, so I leave you with an except from his work "The Hospital Window" to which many of us - unfortunately - can relate.

by James L. Dickey

I have just come down from my father.

Higher and higher he lies
Above me in a blue light
Shed by a tinted window.
I drop through six white floors
And then step out onto pavement.

Still feeling my father ascend,

I start to cross the firm street,
My shoulder blades shining with all
The glass the huge building can raise.
Now I must turn round and face it,
And know his one pane from the others.

Each window possesses the sun

As though it burned there on a wick.
I wave, like a man catching fire.
All the deep-dyed windowpanes flash,
And, behind them, all the white rooms
They turn to the color of Heaven.

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