In Self-Interviews, James Dickey speaks thoughtfully and with candor of his life as a poet. He recalls how poetry came to be his career, tracing its growing importance in his life from his youth in Georgia through his years overseas with the Air Force, as a student at Vanderbilt, as a teacher, and as a successful advertising executive. He also tells of how he reworked the life around him into poetry, of the fleeting impressions and lingering thoughts that were the seeds of some of his finest poems, including “Cherrylog Road,” “The Lifeguard,” “The Fiend,” and “Falling.”
Following only a rough outline, Dickey recorded these spontaneous monologues in June, 1968, not long after the publication of his Poems, 1957-1967, which collected the work from his first five books. These musings, then, date from what was in many ways a natural vantage point on his artistic development, a moment ripe for recollection and analysis. Dickey uses the occasion not only to look back on his career but also to consider his preferences and goals as a poet. “I would like to be able to write a poetry,” he reveals, “that would have something for every level of mind, something that would be accessible to a child and would also give college professors and professional critics something, maybe something they haven’t had much of recently, or indeed ever.”
This book is not so much the autobiography of a poet as it is the biography of a poet’s work. Unique and revealing, Self-Interviews is an intimate profile of a decade in the art of one of America’s finest poets.
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