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Manuscript Collection

James Dickey, 1923-1996. American Author.

James Dickey

Finding Aid for the James Dickey Papers [MSS035]

James Dickey was an American author and poet whose work brought him international recognition as well as innumerable awards. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Dickey's urban Southern roots are clearly evident throughout his poetry. Dickey began his college education at Clemson University, but left at the outbreak of World War II to enlist in the United States Army Air Force. His experiences as a fighter pilot provided him with subject matter for some of his best known poems. Dickey subsequently completed both Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Vanderbilt University where among his teachers was the critic Monroe K. Spears who was influential in directing Dickey's interest toward poetry.

James Dickey began writing poetry in 1947, but turned to writing full-time only in 1960 when his first book, Into the Stone and Other Poems, was published. Prior to this, Dickey had worked as a college instructor and as a highly successful advertising executive. In 1966, Dickey was awarded the National Book Award for his second poetry collection, Buckdancer's Choice. He received international acclaim for his 1970 novel and 1972 screenplay, Deliverance. He is the author of more than 17 books of poems and 12 books of prose.

Collection Description

The James Dickey Papers include a correspondence file, spanning 1954 to 1970, consisting of nearly 1000 letters from literary figures, publishers, editors, and friends. Letters from literary notables are often accompanied by their poetry manuscripts. The bulk of the collection consists of Dickey's own manuscript drafts of poems, essays, reviews, translations and addresses. Proof of Dickey's meticulous craftsmanship is found in his heavily revised poetry manuscripts, many of which have undergone such pronounced change that the initial worksheet is unrecognizable from the final version. The Dickey Papers also include editorial matter toward all of his books of poetry prior to 1970, as well as a collection of informal monologue published that same year as Self-Interviews.