MACON— Mercer University awarded the honorary Doctor of Letters to Poet Laureate of the State of Georgia David H. Bottoms, Jr., Ph.D., at the University's Macon commencement at the Macon Coliseum on May 14. Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey made the presentation after Bottoms gave the commencement address.
Bottoms graduated from Mercer University with a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1971. He completed his master of arts degree in English at West Georgia College in 1973 and received his Ph.D. in American poetry and creative writing from Florida State University in 1982.
Bottoms's writings have been numerous and varied. His poetry chapbook, Jamming with the Band at the VFW (1978), was followed by the widely acclaimed Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump, which established Dr. Bottoms as a prominent new voice in American poetry. He continued his prolific poetic output with In a U-Haul North of Damascus (1983) and Under the Vulture-Tree (1987). Shifting genres, Dr. Bottoms used his poetic gifts in his novels, Any Cold Jordan (1987) and Easter Weekend (1990). Subsequently, he has returned to his first literary love with three poetry collections: Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems (1995), Vagrant Grace (1999), and Waltzing through the Endtime, published just last fall.
The Mercer graduate has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. His book of poems titled Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump was chosen by Robert Penn Warren as the winner of the 1979 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. He has been honored with the Ingram Merrill Award, the Levinson Prize of Poetry magazine and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He also has been selected for fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
He was appointed poet laureate of the state of Georgia in 2000. He is currently the Ferrol A. Sams, Jr., Distinguished Chair in English at Mercer and the John B. and Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters and associate dean for fine arts at Georgia State University.
He is married to Kelly Beard, a lawyer with Beard & Chang, LLC, in Atlanta. They have one daughter, Rachel, and live in Marietta.