Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nature of James Dickey and Gary Snyder

This is an interesting essay by John Yohe comparing James Dickey's views of nature with those of another poet and contemporary of his, Gary Snyder. There are some factual errors in the brief biography of Dickey (he was a navigator and radio operator during World War II, not a "radar technician," and he didn't start teaching at Florida until 1954 -- that sort of thing). But the basic problem with Yohe's take is that he sees Dickey as threatened by nature and by such animals as the wolverine when in fact the key to his work was the ecstatic transformation of the poet/writer into the animals themselves. If there is something "threatening" about the beasts it is not the way they are in nature, but the way they exist inside of us. That is also part of what makes the animals -- and the poems -- so fascinating.

Having said that, it's worth noting that Dickey always liked to cite Aldous Huxley's essay "Wordsworth in the Tropics," about which see this interesting post of an interview with Peter Gilbert in Vermont:

Readers might also be amused by this post on the Dickey Scrapbook, which is a companion blog to this one:

In any case, for anyone interested in these subjects, Yohe's essay is worth a read:

Gary Snyder and James Dickey were born only seven years apart, and both went on to become famous poets from the 1960’s through to the 1990’s. They are both known as "nature" poets (Snyder more than Dickey), but each has a distinctive view of nature, as well as a distinctive poetic style. I was intrigued by the fact that both of their views on nature seemed to be true, or correct. I want to examine both the similarities and differences between these views, with the intention of finding out whether one view is "more true", or better, than the other....

1 comment:

  1. "...the ecstatic transformation of the poet/writer into the animals themselves"

    Ah, yes, animism. Transformation. Primal. Very spiritual.