Poet William Dickey '51, housemate of Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen while a student at Reed, went on to forge a rich career as an award-winning author and professor of English and creative writing.He died in San Francisco in 1994 of AIDS-related illness.
Dickey wrote many books of poetry, including Of the Festivity,which was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1959. "It is possible to show evidence of great intelligence but to be lacking in the first power essential to poetry, the power to speak," wrote Auden in the book's foreword. "Mr. Dickey's lines have both."
His other books include More Under Saturn,winner of the California Silver Medal for Poetry in 1963, The Rainbow Grocery,which won the Juniper Prize in 1978, and King of the Golden River,winner of the Bay Area Book Award for Poetry in 1986. The Education of Desire(Wesleyan Poetry, 1996) was published after his death. Renowned poet Adrienne Rich said of that collection of poems: "Here is one of the most fully textured and searing voices of our time. These poems, diverse in method and music, issue a passionate challenge to mortality and to loss of feeling and memory."
Dickey's essay "Last Time" was published in Life Sentences; Writers, Artists, and AIDS.In it he observes, "My death from AIDS, which when I first heard my diagnosis I expected within a matter of months, seems to have become Recyclable. The special truck has passed, the fabulous black barge with its shrouded oarsman has left the bank for the opposite, unknown shore. Some time or other, I suppose, on a day of total neutrality and anonymity, I'll find myself on the street corner thumbing a ride with the ordinary weekly collectors, another incident in the round of somebody else's hard day's work. I will have made the descent from Recyclable to Trash."