Five Points, Vol. 4 No. 2Winter 2000
From Paul Bowles, “It really only makes sense to have ideas if you can put them down somehow so that they can be received and understood by somebody else.”
from James Dickey: The World as a Lie
1. The Sewanee Fellowship (1954)
Dickey liked to think of his early life as a series of fortunate deliverances that, in time, lost their luster and necessitated further deliverances. Entrenched as a teenager in what he considered the monstrous provincialism of Buckhead, Atlanta, he was delivered into the military rigors of Clemson College for one term in 1941. After disappointments on the football field and in the classroom, he sought deliverance in the Army Air Corps. Failing to realize his dream of becoming a combat pilot, he soon viewed the Air Corps as an obstacle to his burgeoning literary aspirations; he couldn’t wait to return from the war-ravaged Pacific islands to begin his new life as an English major at Vanderbilt University. In 1950, he looked forward to his first class job as an English professor at Rice Institute, but because the department chairman discountenanced his poetry and insisted that he get a Ph.D., Dickey vowed to leave. The most significant deliverance of his literary career came in the form of a fellowship that allowed him to abandon academia, at least temporarily, and write poetry in Europe.