thumbnail of Library of Congress lectures; James Dickey, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Further this passage has what I can only describe as a kind of a folk quality to it. Now some of Jor-El's work is focal folksy in the bad sense for it is self-conscious Lascelle but the best of it is not. And oddly enough even in this computerized age this offers a direction of which we have never should've thought. Well what do we mean by folk Leaving aside for the moment considerations of the connections between a folk idiom and the cultural environment from which it arises. Do we not mean a body of linguistic forms of music of crafts costumes and so on immediately accessible to the sensibilities of those from which they arise or from whom they are recognisable as the language of one species and in poetry and balladry for example that language heightened but still recognisable as ours. Now this is very general so far but when we begin to apply it to a particular locality it begins to make sense. This is a short poem by Eleanor Ross Taylor. I saw them and it is called Motherhood 18 18.
When Dave got up and struck a light we'd neither of us slept all night. We kept the fire and watched by made me sick for fear she might go off like a little Tom. They say don't frack another on the way. They know I favor this at least. No use to cry. But while I made a fire in the kitchen stove I heard a pesky morning of you know what's he calling for. And here is the last stanza of a poem after the late lynching by Catherine Hoskins the poet usually cited for her difficulty but one also capable of speaking with the most of her directness. No not from the whitest light of foreign poems hope help. But from her native wool who took that black head in her hands and felt a sack of little bones whose arms for the last time around him knew down one side no ribs but broken things that moved. Now
these poems. Are by both by highly sophisticated women but it seems to me that I have been able to get back through the system of sophistication to something that sophistication does not usually afford to our sense of the absolute basics of life. And for this is the language of Eliot and Emerson is not right. For this kind of poetry needs nothing more or less than the simple language of necessity such as would be conveyed if one caveman said to another one. We have meat. This is not to say that poetry of this sort is incapable of more than one meaning. It is simply this. That multiplicity of multiplicity of reference and richness of ambiguity which I got from a critical correlate. Richness of ambiguity are no longer going to be the criteria by which the value of poetry is measured. This kind of simplicity which Mr McLuhan might call tribal and if he wouldn't I
would. Takes a great many forms and the interesting thing about it to me is that the essential folk qualities sometimes attach to a region and sometimes not. Doesn't seem to encroach on the individual poet particular kinds of vision at all. Here for example is a stanza by William Stafford who is basically a Midwestern love he lives in Oregon. We had some of you had the pleasure of hearing him a month or six weeks ago here at the library. Just about a family walking on Main Street in the Midwest on main one night when they sounded the chimes my father was ahead in shadow. My son behind coming into the street light on each side a brother and a sister. And overhead the chimes went arching for the perfect sound. There was a one stride God on Main That night all walkers in a cloud. Now this is perfectly direct and has the enormous virtue as I said before of being not only immediately accessible but believable
as language first and poetry second. An interesting variation of this developing approach is a kind of poetry of what I'd be tempted to call the domestic imagination or the poetry of the every day night my own the quotidian. Alan Tate once remarked that he thought of his poems as comments on those human situations from which there is no escape. Well there is no escape from the tooth brush. And the rug that is wearing thin. Well from the mirror in the hall and the dripping faucet. The best of these poets is a youngish fellow named Verne Ruth Sala. And I'll read you one of his poems because I think you ought to know something about him. This is called Sunday. Up early while everyone sleeps I wander through the house. Pondering the eloquence of vacant furniture listening to birdsong peeling the cover of the day. I think everyone I know is sleeping now. Sidewalks are coup waiting for the road for roller skates and wagons.
Skate keys are covered with do. Bicycles broken abandoned on the lawns no balance left in them. Awkward as wounded animals. I am the last man and this is my last day. I can't think of anything to do. Somewhere over my shoulder a jet explores a crease in the sea. In the cloudy sky. I sit on the porch waiting for things to happen. Ofat God of Sunday and chocolate bars. Watcher over picnics and visits to the zoo. Will anyone wake up today. It has been argued for years that ours is a complex aid and a complex age calls for no demand a complex poetry. This to me displays what logicians call the an a logical error. I think that the poetry of the future is going to go back way of the way back
to our basic things and basic sounding statements about them. In an effort maybe a desperate one to get back wholeness of being. To respond full heartedly and full bodied lead to experience where all the time that certain constants must be affirmed are not much of life will be worth anything. The great thing about poetry has always been that it can speak to people deeply about things of genuine concern. Some of this feeling has been lost since the ascendancy of LB and Elliot and the poem has become a kind of hike down a superior amusement as Eliot once called it. I believe that the true poets of the future will repudiate it repudiate that notion Absolutely. And try to operate in that place where as Catherine and Porter says one lives deeply and constantly in that under struck its center of being where the will does not intrude and the sense of passing
time is lost or has no power over the imagination. And if we are lucky in the search of how to do this first in ourselves and then in the poems that we write. And if we believe in it enough. We show I firmly believe at last arrive at a kind of a condition of emotional primitivism a condition of undivided response. The condition where we can connect with whatever draws us with no doubts and no reservations. We're out of paid of our people wrote something about Wordsworth that bears on what I'm saying and I can't resist quote them because I think it's a beautiful and also as I say it bears on what I'm saying. And so it came about that this sense of a life in natural objects which in most poetry is but a rhetorical artifice is with Wordsworth the assertion of what for him is almost a literal fact. To him every natural object seem to
possess more or less of a moral or spiritual life to be capable of companionship with man full of expression of inexplicable affinities and delicate sense of intercourse. And emanation a particular spirit belonged not to the moving leaves or water only. But to the distant peak of the hills arising suddenly by some change of perspective above the nearer horizon to the passing light space of light across the plain to the like in the Druidic stone even for a certain weird fellowship in it with the moods of men. It was like a survival in the peculiar intellectual temperament of a man of letters at the end of the eighteenth century. Of that primitive condition which some philosophers have traced in the general history of human culture wherein all outward objects alike including even the work of men's hands were believed to be endowed with animation and the world was full of soul. That mood in which the old
Greek gods were first begun. Now we don't live in Wordsworth's or pater's but an attitude of mind a kind of being like Wordsworth's is no more impossible to us than it was to him. Theodore Recchi the greatest poet we have ever had in this country. Is and is a marvelous proof of this. I who came back from the depths laughing too loudly. Become another thing. My eyes extend beyond the farthest bloom of the wave as I lose and find myself in the long water. I am gathered together once more I embrace the world. That is what we want to be gathered together once more. To be able to enter in to participate in experience to possess our lives. I think the new poetry will be the poetry of the bafflingly simple statement the statement that is clairvoyantly and stunningly simple but not
simple in the manner of say greeting cards or Stark's warm simplicity of vision the simplicity that opens out deeper into the world and carries us with it. But we are not condemn to division within ourselves by the world we have made for ourselves. We have one self that is conditioned All right. But there is another self that has never heard of an automobile or a telephone. This is the one that connects most readily with the flow of rivers and the light coming from the sun. It is in the second and infinitely older being that we can be transfigured by eyes and recreated by flash. We can participate in a survival in pater's terms a certain and personal animism. As Cammie says as he eats a peach and he does dare to eat a peach. My teeth close on the peach. I hear the great strokes of my blood. Rise into my ears. I love with all of my eyesight on the
sea is the enormous silence of noon. Every beautiful being and thing has the natural pride of its beauty and the world today lets its pride leak away everywhere. But before this world why should I deny myself the joy of being alive even if I can close this joy up and keep it. There is no shame in being happy. But to day the ember soul is king and I call the ember soul that man who is afraid of joy. It can be again a poem or a true life with something that simple. We need that worse than we need anything else. Not sensation but feeling namely the feeling of ourselves. And any poetry that I want to read in the future will find its way of conveying this basic. This irreducible sense of being and who know. Maybe at some undetermined time in the future. Encompassed around by Marshall McLuhan's world of
telemetry and computers his instantaneous world as he calls it of electronic circuitry. In that place he calls the global village. And the RI tribal society. We shall again have what amounts to a purely tribal poetry something naive and utterly convincing a mediately accessible animistic commune or dance like entered into participated in. We are not Eskimos or Bantu and our world village is immeasurably different from one composed of igloos authorized cuts. But if McLuhan is right and I think he is more right than wrong. And if I am right we may live to see the day that our poetry has the simplicity though not the subject matter of this as. From an on McLuhan type of tribe of Eskimos in northern Canada. Glorious it is to see long haired weather caribou returning to the forests fearful
of a watch for the little people while the herd follows the air. Mark of the sea where the storm of clattering her of those glorious it is when wondering time is come. And with the second being the part of us that the light of the sun moves without our having thoughts of harnessing its energy or using it in any way. That part will write the poetry that I want most to read and hear. As Richard Jefferies so magnificently as the mind must acknowledge its ignorance. All the learning and lore of so many arrows must be erased from it as an encumbrance it is not from past our present knowledge the science of faith that it is to be drawn. Erase these altogether as they are raised under the fierce heat of the focus before me. But again wholly afresh go straight to the sun. The immense forces of the universe to the entity unknown go higher than a God deeper than prayer and open a new day.
And finally it may be if this is indeed a real trend that I described. It may be that we should get back even farther than the poetry of the trial and reach back all the way to the very root beginnings back to the state of mind of the first man himself who stood on the shore and opened his arms to the world that he and the world might possess each other. Let me in my quoting part of a poem by birth to diesel and about Adam as Adam swims in the sea to try to discover his Arjen and he discovers the divine sensuality of the world where the spirit of each of us hide and waits for us to come. Over the empty ocean the rose and Amber paled slowly and without sorrow and ever more faintly gleamed about the increase of a western star. Adam swimming in the chilled chill water loved to the cold and the menace. He felt a vast depth but meet
him. And looking back saw the faint shore and heard far off the murmur of anger beginning on the benighted sand under wind and falling foam. It is not vision but life I want said Adam. The power of the sea. A wave filled his mouth with keen salt. The wind of the evening gathered the wide billows beyond Alaska. Into mountains with soft ripples crowning delicately the long slopes with the sweetness of water released from the parent. And Adam ceased swimming and floated over darkness beyond the kelp which makes a sea mark for swimmers and watched how the stars came to the open pool of the central as yours. And he thought not at all but felt the incalculable power of the ocean cradled upon the foundations of the world and moving to the speaking moon. Adam idly in the black water turned and swam Shorewood past the place where the sea stars are lonelier than the stars of the land. He swam on his back through
thick. Help. Setia and clinging on the lonely the ground the fire against motion and. Then swimming through clear water he looked up and saw the sea wood stars. The scorpion in a bright anguish coiled on a bed of sea mist. And where the split sky stream divided light above the ocean Sagittarius the archer the dancing rider enough faint snow of star. And still he swam and was not as nothing but neath the tyranny of all that splendor now poured out like starlight in wonder along the ocean. Yet the mystery of the stars darker the night wind and spring and more strange with secret was present as he swam and was like a wind freshening the world. Thank you. Eh eh.
Name's Dick a consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress has been heard speaking on spinning the crystal ball. Guesses at the future of American portrayed. This was another in a series prepared for national educational radio in cooperation with the Gertrude Clark with all poetry and literature fond of the Library of Congress. This is that I had no education or radio network.
Library of Congress lectures
James Dickey, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-0c4sns1m).
Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, presents Library of Congress consultant in poetry James Dickey on the future of American poetry.
Series Description
A series of lectures given at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Dickey, James
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.2-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:18:04
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures; James Dickey, part two,” 1967-11-06, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Library of Congress lectures; James Dickey, part two.” 1967-11-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Library of Congress lectures; James Dickey, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from