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David Bottoms

1949–

David Bottoms was born in 1949 in Canton, Georgia. His most recent work includes Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch (Copper Canyon Press, 2018) and We Almost Disappear (Copper Canyon Press, 2011). 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.

 


Bibliography

Poetry

Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch (Copper Canyon Press, 2018)
We Almost Disappear (Copper Canyon Press, 2011)
Waltzing through the Endtime (Copper Canyon Press, 2004)
Vagrant Grace (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)
Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1995)
Under the Vulture Tress (William Morrow & Co, 1987)
Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump (William Morrow & Co, 1980)

Prose
Oglethorpe's Dream: A Picture of Georgia (University of Georgia Press , 2011)
Easter Weekend (Louisiana State Univ Press, 1990)
Any Cold Jordan (Peachtree Publishers, 1987)

By This Poet

3

Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump

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.

Kelly Sleeping

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 another place, 
a purer place, which perhaps doesn’t include me,

though certainly includes love, which may include the possibility of me.
Sometimes then her face against the sheet (or pillow)

achieves (almost) an otherworldly calm, (do I dare say that?)
and glows (almost) as it glowed years ago

just after our daughter’s head slipped through the birth canal.

I remember that wet sticky swirl of hair
turning slightly so the slick body might follow more easily,

and how the midwife or nurse or doctor (or someone)
laid an firm open hand under that head

and guided our child into the world.
When that hand laid our daughter on her mother’s breast,

such a sigh followed, a long 

exhausted breath, and (stunned) I saw in my wife’s face 
an ecstasy I knew I’d never (quite) see again.

Foul Ball

The river was off-limits, but occasionally a foul ball would fly back
 
over the press box, over the narrow drive
and down the hill,
 
and there we were—where what we called the ballpark rock
jutted into the Etowah.
 
On hot nights the stench would make us gag.
 
Two miles below the rendering plant
and chicken parts still flooded up in the pool beyond the rock—
clots of dirty feathers, feet,
 
an occasional head with glazed eyes wide.
We’d hold our noses and try to breathe through our mouths.
 
Once though, the smell was too much
and we had to give it up.
 
Listen, it wasn’t what you think. It was only Little League,
and they gave us free ice cream
 
for retrieving a foul. No, we weren’t overcome
by thoughts of filth, disease,
or fish kills. We were running down a long hill, dodging
 
trees and undergrowth, trying
to find a ball before it found the river.