James Dickey (1923 – 1997) is one of the outstanding modern American poets. His criticism provides a scope of ideas on what humanity has gained throughout the twentieth century. His viewpoint is likely to amaze an observer by constant critical notes on what is universally called “amenities of life.” Thus, the figure of James Dickey cannot be underestimated in terms of his poetical style and criticism of perpetually developing progressive life of the mankind during the twentieth century.
His inclinations to make people understand the charms of primitivism and animalism were straightforward. He could put his reasoning over the entire life through the eyes of animals and nature. Thus, the environmental problem of humanity and morality worried him much. It is reflected in his poetry by making emphasis on the significance of return to the nature in order to think like a “child of nature.”
Dickey’s main motivation for claiming the importance of return to primitivism was not spontaneous. He had got through participation in World War II and Korean War (Thesing and Wrede 151). In this respect the poet was highly depressed by losing his older brother. In fact, it turned into a cycle of poems on the main themes of family, survival, spiritual rebirth, love, war and some other (Vaughan 115).
With multiple poems included in the compilation The Whole Motion, Dickey described war as the source for cruelty and disfigured estimation of humanity at large (Thesing and Wrede 153). In this very collection one embraces the evolution of Dickey as a poet. The author followed a specific for Modernism feature of the stream-of-consciousness technique. He introduced it in personal evaluation of human civilization, as a self-destructing unity of people. Moreover, Dickey was trying to make a set of interrelated topics interwoven in terms of their collision and approach toward the concept of a “natural man.”
Attacking the problem of civilization, James Dickey is likely to blame world’s progress on the example of his best-known poem The Firebombing:
The enemy-colored skin of families
Determines to hold its color
In sleep, as my hand turns whiter
Than ever, clutches the toggle –
The ship shakes bucks
Fire hangs not yet fire
In the air above Beppu
For I am fulfilling
An ‘anti-morale’ raid upon it (Kendall 511).
Based on this single excerpt from the poem, Dickey brings the main problem of the mankind to notice. It is grounded on misunderstanding of where the edge between morality and violence takes place. The author perceives an enormous and ominous power of violence supported by humanity. He understands personal helplessness. Thus, he had no choice but to reflect his rumination in the form of a holistic criticism of the civilization and its consequences. Hence, Dickey is constantly critiquing civilization, and it feels like he never repeated the same theme colored by a banal estimation. It is also included into The Sheep Child. His poetic language was easy to comprehend. Thus, the readers and followers can easily take Dickey as he is.
As a matter of fact, born in Atlanta, Georgia, Dickey was loosely related to the concept of nature as he lived, studied, and worked for some period of time in the south of the USA (O’Briant 158). His “southern” origin and what he once experienced in person gave him motivation for teaching the audience being glowering toward what the civilized life had fallen into (James Dickey 1). In this respect the primitivism and the concept of the “natural man” are the paramount alternatives represented in his poetry.