Saturday, November 5, 2011

David Bottoms, poet laureate, reading Monday night in Decatur

"My Father Adjusts His Hearing Aids"
Once again my old man has gutted his hearing aids.
On the table beside him, around the smallest blade
of his pocketknife,

his hearing aids lie scattered like the scrutinized guts
of bugs.
Somewhere in those parts -- the coils, the disks,
the blue copper veins -- somewhere in that chaos
lies the riddle
of sound. Now in the dark kitchen he faces the window

where the first stars tremble in the branches of his oaks.
The house is as quiet as a broken watch.

He's pieced the clues -- nothing will ever be
repaired again, nothing will ever work as it did.
The dumb wind
says as much, and the needles raining in the yard.
The silence around his shoulder is my mother's arm.

David Bottoms, the current poet laureate of Georgia, will be the featured guest at the Georgia Center for the Book on Monday, November 7th. His newest book of poems, We Almost Disappear (Copper Canyon Press) is his first since 2004.

David Bottoms

In one of those ironic twists Bottoms might appreciate in this technological age, the Amazon preview of We Almost Disappear opens to reveal an entirely different book: A Little White Death by thriller writer John Lawton. It seems a literal play on Bottoms's title -- and a bit of a laugh, considering. Purchasers are hearby forewarned.

Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with Keith Jennings at the Keitharsis site, in which Bottoms recalls a last meeting with James Dickey.
... In 1997, a few months before he died, James Dickey told me something that I’ve remembered all these years. We were at a party at Emory, I believe, a party in his honor, and he had just poured himself a large glass of chocolate milk. He’d been sick for a while by that time and had finally given up alcohol. Anyway, he glared at me over this huge glass of chocolate milk and said, “David, there’s nothing more important than family.” I don’t know why he said that to me just then. We’d not been talking about family, and it seemed extremely ironic given the fact that he’d done just about everything anyone could do to destroy his own family.

I think he finally understood that and died a very lonely and sad man.
Anyway, I didn’t set out to write a book of poems about my family. I didn’t set out to write an autobiographical book. But I’m 62 years old now and as a person ages things that are important just sort of naturally rise to the surface. At least I take that to be the case. And Dickey was right, nothing is more important than family. And so over these last few years concerns about family and aging have found their way into my poems.

So the answer to the question, I suppose, is family and growing older. And the way these things touch on the big questions. I’d also like to say that I like this book better than any I’ve written, and I’m happy about that.
Bottoms will be appearing at the Decatur library at 7:15 pm. More information about Monday's event and other upcoming appearances can be found at the Georgia Cernter for the Book website.

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