I just finished reading James Dickey’s Deliverance. I’ve long admired his poetry, and my teenage friends and I knew the movie by heart. As I read, the images in my mind the looked an awful lot like Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight.While the film captures the central themes of the book, especially the brutal struggle of wildness and civilization, the poetry can only be found in the words on a page:
A slow force took hold of us; the bank began to go backward. I felt the complicated urgency of the current, like a thing made of many threads being pulled, and with this came the feeling I always had at the moment of losing consciousness at night, going toward something unknown that I could not avoid, but from which I would return. (p. 73)
The biography at poetryfoundation.org states:
one of Dickey’s principal themes, usually expressed through direct confrontation or surreal juxtaposition of nature and civilization, was the need to intensify life by maintaining contact with the primitive impulses, sensations, and ways of seeing suppressed by modern society. As Joan Bobbitt wrote in Concerning Poetry, Dickey “sees civilization as so far removed from nature, its primal antecedent, that only [grotesque] aberrations can aptly depict their relationship and, as he implies, possibly restore them to harmony and order.”
I enjoyed the novel, but I am enamored with his poetry, like the final stanza from “Cherrylog Road“:
But if you only have 20 minutes, and you’d like a more uplifting story about Afghanistan, listen to Andrew Solomon on the Moth. I failed in holding back tears of joy. Click on segment 1 to listen to the full story.