communication in depth

Dickey offers a provocative definition of poetry in the discussion of Alun Lewis: “It’s not ‘literature’; it’s that human communication in depth that the best poetry is.” To say that a poet is great is not to praise indiscriminately. “Human communication in depth” can miss the mark. Dickey cautions the audience during the session on William Butler Yeats: “There are small writers that you can like without equivocation or without reservation, but I think there are no great writers that you have no reservation about whether or not you like them. Toward the end of this volume in the lecture on Dylan Thomas, he identifies two of his choices for greatness: “Of the great original users of the English language, who brought something truly original to the use of English in poetry, the two finest, the most original in whole canon of English poetry, are Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dylan Thomas…But of the two, the more original is Dylan Thomas.”

Quoted in James Dickey: Classes on Modern Poets and the Art of Poetry (U. of S. Carolina Press, 2004), edited by Donald J. Greiner

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