James Dickey: Poems 1957 – 1967. Wesleyan University Press. First Edition.
I almost always crack each book I list, unless it is just a numerous and easily available edition of a well known title.
Today I took a minute to randomly read a James Dickey Poem. It was Buck Dancer’s Choice, from the section of the same name.
Then I had to go listen to the song, in several varying styles by several artists. Then I had to go look at videos of buck dancing, which according to Emmylou Harris’ teacher is NOT the same as clogging.
Then I had to wipe a tear.
And now I need some tap shoes. I want to wear them all day all around the house.
The poem and links to some of what I found in my explorations below.
So I would hear out those lungs,The air split into nine levels,Some gift of tongues of the whistlerIn the invalid’s bed: my mother,Warbling all day to herselfThe thousand variations of one song;It is called Buckdancer’s Choice.For years, they have all been dyingOut, the classic buck-and-wing menOf traveling minstrel shows;With them also an old womanWas dying of breathless angina,Yet still found breath enoughTo whistle up in my headA sight like a one-man band,Freed black, with cymbals at heel,An ex-slave who thrivingly dancedTo the ring of his own clashing lightThrough the thousand variations of one songAll day to my mother’s prone music,The invalid’s warbler’s note,While I crept close to the wallSock-footed, to hear the sounds alter,Her tongue like a mockingbird’s breakThrough stratum after stratum of a toneProclaiming what choices there areFor the last dancers of their kind,For ill women and for all slavesOf death, and children enchanted at wallsWith a brass-beating glow underfoot,Not dancing but nearly risenThrough barnlike, theatrelike housesOn the wings of the buck and wing.
James Dickey, “Buckdancer’s Choice” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress.
Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)
Directed by D.C. choreographer Emily Oleson, this work features Urban Artistry with Good Foot Dance Company and Baakari Wilder. The piece investigates the origins behind the term “buck dance,” which in tap dance history is used to describe an early American percussive dance style. Drawing on a short video of buck dance taken by Thomas Edison in 1894, the dancers use the technique of freestyling to compare different dance styles in conversation. Part of Local Dance Commissioning Project.