From the Green Horseshoe by James Dickey’s Students

Copyright 1987
Checked out 1 time in 23 years
Last checked out 22 years ago

This is such a bizarre book to find on the shelf. Apparently I’m not the only one to have thought so since only one person saw fit to take it home before me. I’m sure that most people in this county don’t know who James Dickey is and thus have no idea why they should have any interest in his students.

They also probably assume that these students are high school or maybe undergraduates in college because they’ve never heard of MAs, PhDs, or MFAs in creative writing. Still, I can’t blame them for considering student poetry suspect (even advanced students). I do. It hasn’t been through any sort of editorial winnowing process and is likely the result of an assignment (which may produce wonderful poems but more often doesn’t).

I browsed this book. It’s not without value, but because of its unfortunate byline, I doubt the patrons of the Albertville Public Library are ever going to take to it. It would be most useful in an academic or school library. In an academic library, the students might have come across the writing of James Dickey and thus recognize the name and might be curious what kind of poetry students produce under the tutelage of an accomplished poet. In a school library, or in the hands of a teacher enthusiastic about poetry and creative writing, the book’s examples of formal poetry (notably villanelles and sonnets) might be useful.

Because Dickey was teaching at the University of South Carolina, the book is full of poems rooted in the South and rural life. But if no one is going to pick it up, the point is moot. Let this book find a new home.

Personally, I found it a bit depressing that none of Dickey’s students achieved national notoriety for their poetry, even knowing it’s very common for people who study poetry to stop writing after leaving a program. I didn’t like the the reminder. I did a few google searches on the poets to see if perhaps they were still writing and having success on a smaller scale. Some were in academic settings teaching workshops but apparently were no longer actively writing or seeking publication. One woman, who had continued publishing, had died of breast cancer before she got far in her career. Another now writes magazine articles. One man, who wrote a fascinating poem about caving, gave up writing poetry and instead has written an apparently successful book about caves and what can be found within them. So most of these people have become successful–just not as poets.


About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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