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About this poet

David Bottoms was born in 1949 in Canton, Georgia. His most recent work includes Waltzing through the Endtime (Copper Canyon Press, 2004), Vagrant Grace (1999), Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems (1995) and the novel Easter Weekend (1990). His first collection, Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump (1980), was selected by Robert Penn Warren for the 1979 Walt Whitman Award.

His poems have appeared in many magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Southern Review. He also serves as editor for Five Points literary magazine.

About Bottoms's work, the poet and novelist James Dickey said, "One cannot read him without being nerve-touched by his sardonic yet compassionate countryman's voice, his hunter's irony. Bottoms has come into American poetry quickly; his place is already high, and will be higher."

His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Levinson Prize, an Ingram-Merrill Award, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Bottoms is currently the Poet Laureate of Georgia and holds the Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters at Georgia State University.

Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump

David Bottoms, 1949
Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride 
to the dump in carloads
to turn our headlights across the wasted field, 
freeze the startled eyes of rats against mounds of rubbish.

Shot in the head, they jump only once, lie still 
like dead beer cans.
Shot in the gut or rump, they writhe and try to burrow 
into garbage, hide in old truck tires, 
rusty oil drums, cardboard boxes scattered across the mounds,
or else drag themselves on forelegs across our beams of light 
toward the darkness at the edge of the dump.

It's the light they believe kills. 
We drink and load again, let them crawl
for all they're worth into the darkness we're headed for.

From Armored Hearts, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1995. Copyright © by David Bottoms, 1995. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

From Armored Hearts, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1995. Copyright © by David Bottoms, 1995. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

David Bottoms

David Bottoms

David Bottoms was born in 1949 in Canton, Georgia. His most

by this poet

poem


Sometimes when she sleeps, her face against the pillow (or sheet)
almost achieves an otherworldly peace.

Sometimes when the traffic and bother of the day dissolve
and her deeper self eases out, when sunlight edges 

through curtains and drapes the bed, I know she’s in