Under the Vulture-Tree (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Under the Vulture-Tree is a collection of thirty poems by a man desperate, as he says, “for something to praise,” specifically “something small and changing"—a white maggot in its cradle, the tadpole’s tiny feet, the horn-worm and the phoenix moth. David Bottoms’ poems are full of change, and they are full of praise. The last three poems in the collection are in praise of the poet’s father, or, to be more accurate, they are about the changes the father underwent and the additional changes underway as the poet comes to “own” his father’s name. The word “homage” occurs in the titles of three poems, and many other poems express homage. Despite their close and particular observation of physical reality, or possibly because of that concrete observation, the poems express reverence in the face of mystery. Under Bottoms’ scrutiny, even such unlikely subjects as rats and vultures prove beautiful, both in their being and in their function. In Under the Vulture-Tree, Bottoms takes stock of his world, and what he finds there is good. The poems reveal that kind of vision which the late Flannery O’Connor said the writer would have to cultivate if he wanted to say anything of importance: the anagogical, a kind of writing in which physical things bespeak Deity in action. Another word for such writing might be sacramental.
Perhaps Bottoms is merely doing what every genuine artist seeks to do—to render, as...
(The entire section is 1825 words.)
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