The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life, 1942-1969

By James Dickey; Gordon Van Ness | Go to book overview

Encounters

The sixties brought Dickey to literary prominence. He won the National Book Award for poetry in 1966 for Buckdancer's Choice and was named poetry consultant to the Library of Congress the same year, recognition far beyond anything he might have imagined as a young boy in Atlanta or a flight navigator in the Philippines. His correspondence during this decade reveals not only an increasing determination to further his career and influence the direction of American poetry but also a clear decision to pursue new interests and opportunities. One world seemed too limiting.

Joseph Campbell's term “master of the two worlds” designates a state of being in which the mythic hero, having departed the ordinary world and penetrated to a source of power, now understands that these two worlds are really one and the same:

The two worlds, the divine and the human, can be pictured only as distinct from each other—different as life and death, as day and night. The hero adventures out of the land we know into darkness; there he accomplishes his adventure, or again is simply lost to us, imprisoned, or in danger; and his return is described as a coming back out of that yonder zone. Nevertheless—and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol—the two kingdoms are actually one. 1.

From a figurative death, in other words, the hero reemerges, newly born, crossing the return threshold with his treasure—the runes of wisdom or a golden fleece or a sleeping princess—back into the human community. There he understands that values and distinctions apparent in normal life disappear when the self enters what previously it believed to be Other. By 1960 James Dickey did not feel he had mastered anything, though he hoped he was coming into possession of the worlds of art and advertising. He had believed that his Pacific combat had initiated him into a larger kingdom, that he had acquired

____________________
1.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 217.

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The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life, 1942-1969
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The One Voice of James Dickey - His Letters and Life, 1942—1969 *
  • For Courteney, Gordon, and Ian —bright Passion, Striving for Height— *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Editorial Note xiii
  • Briefings 1
  • Reconnaissance 119
  • Encounters 314
  • Index 487
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