Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

Homage to the Unburied:
A Column
“Sleepers”

Joyce Carol Oates’s high acclaim for James Dickey’s work ranked him alongside our supreme early master: “It might be argued that Dickey is our era’s Whitman, but a Whitman subdued, no longer innocent, baptized by American violence into the role of “killer/victim” …

Dickey surely was familiar with Whitman’s masterpiece “The Sleepers” when he penned his own poem “Sleepers.” Whitman’s amazing blend of compassion and multifarious witnessing permeates the catalogues of his lengthy fantasia. Dickey’s one-page meditative verses share something of Whitman’s power to cherish the full human community of bodies asleep.

“The Diverse shall be no less diverse, but they / shall flow and unite—they unite now,” chants the incomparable voice of the sublime Walt.

Though Dickey bypasses the pictorial sweep of diversity, he does follow up on Whitman’s hypothesis of an accidental society of sleepers who may “flow and unite—they unite now.” In Dickey’s vision, the sleepers are urged by the speaker to deliberately assemble in “planned rows over graveyards.”

There is a sound you can make, as if someone asked you
                To sing between oar strokes, or as though
Your birth cry came back, and you put it into sails
Over water,

-30-

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Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Clairvoyant with Hunger vi
  • Part 1 - James Dickey, Poems from the Eagle’S Mile 1
  • “the Eagle’S Mile” 2
  • “weeds” 7
  • “expanses” 10
  • “farmers” 13
  • “form” 16
  • “poem” 20
  • Homage to the Unburied: a Column - “sleepers” 30
  • “snow Thickets” 35
  • “the Three” 38
  • “the Six” 42
  • “circuit” 46
  • “eagles” 49
  • “night Bird” 51
  • “daybreak” 53
  • Warrior, Visionary, Natural Philosopher: James Dickey’S to the White Sea 56
  • Part 2 - James Wright’S Prose Poems 73
  • Of Two Sublimities: Love Poems “a Small Grove” 74
  • “in Gallipoli” 77
  • “the Gift of Change” 82
  • “flowering Olives” 87
  • “camomilla” 90
  • “may Morning” 96
  • “piccolini” 99
  • “regret for a Spider Web” 103
  • “the Snail at Assisi” 108
  • “the Sunlight Falling at Peace in Moret-Sur-Loing” 114
  • Paradigm for Prose Poems 118
  • “the Secret of Light” 119
  • “bari, Old and Young” 129
  • Part 3 - W.S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 133
  • W. S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 134
  • Part 4 - Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 168
  • Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 169
  • Part 5 183
  • On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks “the Wall” 184
  • “the Laggard Bird,” by Dunya Mikhail 192
  • David Bottoms’ Grueling Miracle: Faith in Middle Age 219
  • Part 6 - The Pull of the Sentence: on My Influences 250
  • Voice to Voice 251
  • The Most Essential Element of All: an Interview with Laurence Lieberman 269
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