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James Dickey Portrait

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and in the surrounding area, James Dickey was first a public figure as a high school football star. He did not decide to be a writer until after service in the Air Force in World War II and then enrollment at Vanderbilt University. Even then, he took up other occupations as well. He helped train pilots in the Korean War and worked as an advertising executive for Coca-Cola. Both in his poetry and in his widely successful novel, Deliverance (1970), he was fascinated by violent, definitive tests of selfhood. He could write poems glorying in combat, poems designed to shock readers with country sexuality, and, in the case of "Falling," a poem that celebrates a most transitory form of transcendence at the same time as it indulges in misogynist violence. Flamboyant in his personal style, he was at once a performer and an unforgettable writer.