On David Bottoms: Hymns to the Unknown

A late Friday afternoon in October, Detroit, 1980.  I was standing in the aisle in Marwil’s bookstore on the corner of Warren and Cass, shaking off a long week of teaching freshman composition, browsing the new poetry books—they didn’t have many—when I hit upon a thin volume called Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump.  I had never heard of the poet, David Bottoms, but the title was startling, and the collection had been chosen for a prize by Robert Penn Warren, whose late poems I had been carrying around for weeks (Now and Then, Being Here), and so I stood there reading while the traffic thickened the corridors outside, and the shadows traveled slowly across the store.  I did not notice Mr. Marwil at the cash register, eyeing me suspiciously, making sure that I did not steal the book.