Deliverance

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“:

Restored, a bicycle fleshed
With power, and tore off
Up Highway 106, continually   
Drunk on the wind in my mouth,   
Wringing the handlebar for speed,   
Wild to be wreckage forever.

In Wonder at the Age of Wonder

Nuggets from the Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes:

Experiments on nitrous oxide (laughing gas) were among first to use blind experimental method:
[Humphry] Davy now pioneered the ‘blind’ experimental method. He deliberately did not tell his subjects what concentration of nitrous oxide there were breathing, or whether they were in fact inhaling regular air (which sometimes they were).” p. 262

Davy recorded some his early experiments in verse: “Not in the ideal dream of wild desire / Have I beheld a rapture-waking form; / My bosom burns with no unhallowed fire …”  Ahem, I’ll have whatever he’s having.

Coleridge on Science and Poetry: 

“[Samuel Taylor Coleridge] thought that science, a human activity, ‘being necessarily performed with the passion of Hope, it was poetical’. Science, like poetry, was not merely ‘progressive’. It directed a particular kind of moral energy and imaginative longing into the future. It enshrined the implicit belief that mankind could achieve a better, happier world.” p.268