This installment of Hot Rocks celebrates the achievement of David Bottoms, one of our finest living poets and a powerful presence in American letters as an editor, teacher, and fiction writer for over forty years. He is the author of eight books of poetry, two novels, and was the co-editor and founder of Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art. He served as Poet Laureate of Georgia from 2000 to 2012, held the John B. and Elena Diaz-Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters at Georgia State University, and retired in the spring of 2020. His many awards include the Levinson Prize, an Ingram-Merrill Award, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Walt Whitman Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.
More importantly, David is a treasured friend of the contributors and the editors of this feature. The deep humanity that informs his poetry also characterizes him. His love of southern music of every stripe finds voice in his work. He is a storyteller-in-verse who uses accessible language and figurative language—metaphors, similes, myths, archetypes—to tap into the world’s underlying design and “reveal something about the hidden things of the world, the vague or shadowy relationships and connections that exist just below the surface of our daily lives.”1
Under a sky of stars and no moon, in the curve of headlights
alarming the county,
a line of deputies wades through a field
of waist-high hay. By a wall of gray pine at the edge
of that field, something curls, glows
bright as blood.
………………………………………I curl under my blanket,
watch the yellow dial on the radio, the stars hanging
in the black panes of the window. This is real,
not make-believe horror, metallic, alive,
and the deputies trailing paths in the hay
move towards it, inch by inch, as the voice of the reporter
rises bodiless in my room, wind in his microphone
like a siren whistling the end of the world
as we know it. And I remember, vaguely, a night
my father carried me into,
a sky of loud crickets, a field of stars, a radio tower,
and circling the red light of that tower, two unknown lights,
balls of blue and green.
What those deputies find at the end of that field,
a piece of broken sign,
the letter O
in fluorescent red, is nothing to ease my sleep.
I dream of the whole universe, of an infinite
and indiscriminate creation
where the black frontier behind the eyes floats back as far
as the light behind the stars.