HELMETS by James Dickey


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Dickey's third volume of verse is both an advance on the other two, and a disappointment. Forty or so, Dickey has a fairly firm reputation as one of the more watchable younger poets. Rights now he seems to be in a transitional phase, writing long, almost lazy meditations on the nature of the American landscape, symbolic everies of stones and water, mountains and animals, along with some muted narratives apparently biographical: father, son, girl friend, folk singing in the '30's etc.. He still has his clean, uncluttered craftsmanship, though here it appears more impressionistic, more ambiguously searching and stretched-out. Happily he tends towards eeper philosophical exploration and technical experimentation; unhappily the results are often inconclusive if not necessarily imprecise. Frankly the most successful items are the WWII poems which close the collection and which are closer to earlier work such as The Performance. "While the world fades, it is becoming", says Dickey, "Here in the dark, it is being". But the dark is hardly ever around, and Dickey's emotions, never at any time showy or stark, are now practically drained of all hit-on-the-head immediacy. We are very likely in the presence of work-in-progress, of an evolving style; as such Dickey's Thoreau-like contemplation can be better evaluated in the future.
ISBN: 0819510211
Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1963


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