James Dickey Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


James Dickey

Birthday :

February 2, 1923

Died On :

January 19, 1997

Also Known For :

Literary Critic, Poet

Birth Place :

Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


James Dickey was an American novelist and poet who lived during the contemporary literature period. He was born on February 2, 1923, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

His notable works include ‘Deliverance,’ ‘Buckdancer’s Choice,’ ‘Falling, May Day Sermon and Other Poems’ and ‘To the White Sea.’ He received the National Book Award for Poetry. He died on January 19, 1997, in Columbia, South Carolina at the age of seventy-seven.

Early Life

James Dickey was born James Lafayette Dickey on February 2, 1923, in Atlanta, Georgia U.S. He was the son of lawyer Eugene Dickey and Maibelle Swift. He went to North Fulton High school in Atlanta and graduated in 1941. After his graduation, he attended Darlington School in Rome, Georgia where he undertook his postgraduate studies.

He also joined Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina and was a member of the football team. He left school to join the army after completing only one semester.

James Dickey was enlisted as a radar operator in the U.S Army Air Forces at the World War II and later served again in the war against Korea. He joined Vanderbilt University and graduated in 1949 with a degree in Philosophy and English and then in 1950, earned his Masters’ in English from the same University.



In 1950, James Dickey went to Rice University in Houston where he taught English. Between 1955 and 1956, he taught at the University of Florida before proceeding to an advertising job.

He was responsible for scripting and directing campaign adverts for Coca-cola and Lay’s potato chips. Although advertising was not his initial job plan, he only took up the job to make money.

In 1960, James Dickey published his first book titled ‘Into the Stone and Other Poems.’ Later in 1962, he wrote and published his second piece known as ‘Drowning with others.’ His later publication ‘Buckdancer’s Choice’ (1965) was widely acclaimed, and he received the National Book of Poetry Award. Other poems which he published include ‘Two Poems of the Air’ (1964), ‘Helmets’ (1964), ‘Poems’ (1967), ‘The Achievement of James Dickey: A Comprehensive Selection of His Poems’ (1968), ‘The Eye-Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy’ (1970), ‘Exchanges’ (1971), ‘For The Death of Vince Lombardi’ (1971).

He also wrote the poems ‘The Zodiac’ (1976), ‘Veteran Birth: The Gadfly Poems’ (1978), ‘Head-Deep in Strange Sounds: Free-Light Improvisations from the unEnglish’ (1979), ‘The Strength of Fields’ (1979), ‘Falling, May Day Sermon and Other Poems’ (1981), ‘The Early Motion’ (1981), ‘Puella’ (1982), Varmland’ (1982), ‘False Youth: Four Seasons’ (1983), ‘For a Time and Place’ (1983), ‘Intervisions’ (1983),

Further he wrote ‘The Central Motion: Poems’(1983), ‘Bronwen, The Traw, and the Shape-Shifter: A Poem in Four Parts’ (1986), ‘The Eagle’s Mile’ (1990), ‘The Whole Motion: Collected Poems’ (1992), ‘Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like the Bee’.

James Dickey also served in several colleges as a lecturer between 1963 and 1968 including Reed College, California State University, Northridge, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee among others. Later in 1969, he embarked on taking the position of English Professor at the University of South Carolina where he taught until his death.  


Personal Life

James Dickey married Maxine Syerson in 1948, and together they had two children Christopher and Kevin. After Maxine died in 1976, he married Deborah Dodson and together had a daughter Bronwen.



James Dickey's later years were marked with a disease like jaundice and pulmonary fibrosis due to heavy intake of alcohol. He died on January 19, 1997, in Columbia, South Carolina at the age of seventy-seven.

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