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The Starry Place Between the Antlers: Columbia celebrates the late James Dickey

James Dickey’s resume included an iconic movie, the title of United States Poet Laureate and a 28-year stint as writer-in-residence at University of South Carolina.
James Dickey’s resume included an iconic movie, the title of United States Poet Laureate and a 28-year stint as writer-in-residence at University of South Carolina. Submitted

James Dickey would stroll through the University of South Carolina campus and haunt Five Points with his wide-brimmed hat and bigger-than-life personality.

His resume included an iconic movie, the title of United States Poet Laureate and a 28-year stint as writer-in-residence at University of South Carolina.

Even though he has been dead for 22 years, he still looms large in Columbia. That’s why this weekend, fans and friends will gather to celebrate Dickey.

“He led a very big life,” said Thorne Compton, a former UofSC professor and friend of Dickey’s. “Bigger than some people are happy with.”

Called “The Starry Place Between The Antlers,” the weekend is a four-day celebration of the man who is responsible for folks thinking of banjo music when they find themselves in a secluded, wooded area.

Beyond Columbia and the world of poetry, Dickey is perhaps best known for “Deliverance,” a novel he wrote in 1970 that was made into a movie starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox. Dickey had a small role in the movie as Sheriff Bullard.

The movie was about four city men, who encounter some nasty mountain men while canoeing. The movie received three Oscar nominations and five Golden Globe nominations. For many, it’s best remembered for a music scene when “Dueling Banjos” played.

Dale Alan Bailes, a self-described “hippy businessman” who owned Joyful Alternative, is pretty sure Dickey bought the album by Eric Weissbergthat “Dueling Banjos” was on at his Five Points store. He also remembers Dickey bringing “Deliverance” director John Boorman into the store while they were filming the movie.

Bailes, and others, will share stories like this during the weekend celebration. Some of the stories that will be shared include:

Mike Shavo and Ron Aiken talking about a meeting with James Dickey to feel out the Coen Brothers who were interested in making a film from the Dickey novel, “To the White Sea”

Former USC football star quarterback Todd Ellis talking about being recruited by Dickey

Compton talking about a disturbance during one of Dickey’s readings at USC

Compton remembers when a symposium featuring several well-known authors, ended rather memorable thanks to a feud between Dickey and another person.

“It was a remarkable three days of seminars,” Compton said. “The last night included a reading Jim was going to do.”

The person who had a grudge against Dickey had hired a gorilla suited person and a belly dancer to disrupt the reading. The State ran a photo of Compton trying to get rid of the gorilla.

Dickey’s reaction? He was amused.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, March 7

7 p.m.: A showing of the movie “Deliverance” at Trustus Theatre (520 Lady Street); There will be a talkback panel led by Ronny Cox, one of the four main characters in the movie

Cost: $15

Friday, March 8

“Stop, Look & Listen”

3:30 p.m.: A guided walking tour from McCutchen House to Davis College (former home of the USC English Department) to the Ernest F. Hollings Library. The walk will be led by Professor Ed Madden, poet laureate of Columbia and Director of Women’s and Gender studies at USC. At the Hollings Library, poet Tim Conroy will debut an original unpublished Dickey poem, “Parade” from 1960.

4:30 p.m.: A reception with coffee and cookies at Hollings Library where guests can view a small exhibit of the library’s James Dickey holdings with commentary from director Elizabeth Sudduth; Carolina poets will read Dickey’s poetry; music from Dickey’s old friend and musical collaborator, Steve Bennett with Tom Coolidge

5:30 p.m.: “Meet up at the Hangar! a tribute to James Dickey, the Aviator, at the Hunter Gatherer- Hangar (1402 Jim Hamilton Blvd.). There will be a Happy hour Power hour, with Dickey stories, poetry reading, unpublished poetry and an unpublished interview act out, featuring Ronny Cox, Roger Pinckney, Ellen Malphrus, Tim Conroy, and more. There will be a BBQ dinner.

Saturday, March 9

11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.: “A Day of Panels” at the White Mule, 711 Saluda Ave. A full day of panels, interviews and readings, as well as available lunch and dinner.

Cost: $10 contribution

11-11:50 a.m.: The James Dickey influence on SC writers and poets. Host Roger Pinckney.

Noon-12:20 p.m.: “The Rediscovery of ‘Parade.’ ” Host Ron Aiken.

12:20-12:50 p.m.: Poems read by Carolina Poets.

1-2 p.m.: A recreation of the last unpublished interview of James Dickey, with Tom Poland, the interviewer, and Al Black playing James Dickey.

2-2:50: “James Dickey and the Devil,” good, bad, and the ugly. Host Cindi Boiter.

3-4:20 p.m.: “James Dickey and Nature.” Host John Lane.

4:30-5:30 p.m.: “Legacy of James Dickey.” Host Ron Aiken.

7-10 p.m.: The big show at the Hunter Gatherer Hangar, actor and musician Ronny Cox along with national recording artist Jack Williams.

Cost: $20

VIP: $100 (meal and beers with Ronny Cox and Jack Williams limit 10)

Sunday, March 10

11 a.m.: James Dickey brunch at The Warmouth (1209 Franklin Street) featuring the favorite Dickey foods; okra, hopping john, She Crab Soup, ribs, wood smoked BBQ, all the special indigenous foods that are found in the starry place between the antlers.

Includes a special storytelling event featuring stories told by poet Al Black, Todd Ellis, Ron Aiken, Mike Shavo, Dale Bailey, Steve Bennett and others. Bierkeller will pour a special Dickey Dunkel beer brewed specifically for the James Dickey weekend. Music will be performed by The Plowboys .

3 p.m.: The Plowboys will close with a set. There will be a poem, toasts and a special last wolverine tribute.

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