The Works of James Dickey and John Ciardi

2949 Words12 Pages
War literature derives much of its impact from the fact that many readers will never have (and are never likely to) experienced the subject matter themselves. It has been postulated that poets such as Ciardi have been damaged psychologically by what they have seen and felt. In his case much of the evidence for this lies in his abandonment of his war diary, leaving it unfinished. Readers derive meaning from the unwritten words and see it as evidence of the concept that war is an exclusive experience, only comprehensible by those that have participated in combat. If one is to accept such a statement, one is likely to discover difficulty in the war literature and poetry of James Dickey, a man that has created a fiction around his war…show more content…
The feelings expressed have still been forged while in combat, as Dickey’s pilot recalls; ‘I always maintained a detached state of mind when we did things like this, but Jim…placed himself, mentally, into the scene…[and] imagined what it must have been like to have been on those boats or in those houses when they were attacked…’ While being detached physically from the bombing of innocents, he was mentally experiencing the terror of what he and his pilot had unleashed on those below him. This tendency can perhaps be explained as an impetuous yearning for more direct involvement in the business of war, but is also a real reaction to that business, and Dickey’s transference of it onto a character that took a more active role in the firebombing of Tokyo is not so easily dismissed as fantasy as one might think when it is first revealed how little his experiences contribute to the creation of such a character. Ciardi’s poetry, in contrast, is not so outspoken or descriptive when it concerns combat. It focuses instead on the consequences and human cost of war in the death of himself and his comrades, into which category he includes the Japanese. The poem Elegy Just in Case speaks of the ease with which he (and the world) is able to accept his own imagined death, and examines the devaluation of the life of a person once he

    More about The Works of James Dickey and John Ciardi

      Get Access