William Dickey 1928–
Perhaps the most important element in Dickey's poetry is its diversity. Reminiscent in its sophisticated precision of W. H. Auden, Dickey's poems are noted for their many different moods and voices. Not preoccupied with the pursuit of a single theme or question, Dickey varies the subjects of his verse greatly. In one poem he may write of loss and despair; in another, the subject might be some whimsical act or thing that once captured his attention. Accordingly, his verse is variously light and deeply contemplative.
W. H. Auden selected Of the Festivity (1959), Dickey's first collection, for inclusion in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. In the Foreword to Of the Festivity, Auden describes his three criteria for good poetry: the lines of a poem must have "the power to speak," the poet a "capacity to notice," and an original and personal vision. Dickey, Auden declares, meets these three requirements.
Dickey's two recent collections, The Rainbow Grocery (1978) and The Sacrifice Consenting (1982), are characteristic of the majority of his works in their fluctuation between humorous and serious observations on many aspects of life. Here, as elsewhere, Dickey employs several different forms in the creation of his verse, including dramatic monologues, lyrical portraits, and comic parodies. Both books have received generally favorable critical reception. Critics who find fault with Dickey's work nonetheless seem to admire his wit and vitality.
(See also CLC, Vol. 3; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 5.)