Ultima Thule - McCombs, Davis - Yale University Press

Series Information
Yale Series of Younger Poets

Ultima Thule

  • Davis McCombs; Foreword by W.S. Merwin
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Selected as a finalist for the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award in the Poetry category

This year’s winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Davis McCombs’s Ultima Thule, which was acclaimed as “a book of exploration, of searching regard.... a grave, attentive holding of a light” by the contest judge, the distinguished poet W. S. Merwin. The poems are set above and below the Cave Country of south central Kentucky, where McCombs lives and which is home to thousands of caves. The book is framed by two sonnet sequences, the first about a slave guide and explorer at Mammoth Cave in the mid-1800s and the second about McCombs’s experiences as a guide and park ranger there in the 1990s. Other poems deal with Mammoth Cave’s four- thousand-year human history and the thrills of crawling into tight, rarely visited passageways to see what lies beyond. Often the poems search for oblique angles into personal experience, and the caves and the landscape they create form a personal geology.

Davis McCombs received a B.A. in 1993 from Harvard University and an M.F.A. from the University of Virginia in 1995. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University from 1996 to 1998. His poem “The River and Under the River” was featured in The Best American Poetry 1996; other work has appeared in the Missouri Review, no roses review, and the Columbia Poetry Review.

"The Yale Series of Younger Poets remains the most prestigious [of poetry contests]."—Library Journal