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Feature Story

UGA announces Georgia Writers Hall of Fame inductees

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jean Cleveland

706-542-8079

Athens, Ga.  – Two poets, including a University of Georgia professor who has gained international acclaim translating the works of a Persian mystic, will be inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in March.

Coleman Barks, who taught poetry and creative writing in UGA’s Department of English for more than 30 years, and Georgia poet laureate David Bottoms, whose honors include the Walt Whitman Award, will be inducted along with two posthumous honorees: Raymond Andrews and Robert Burch.

The celebration will begin with an author’s discussion on March 23 at 4 p.m. and the induction ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. on March 24. Both events will be held in the Reading Room of the Miller Learning Center and are open free to the public.

The UGA Libraries established the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame to recognize Georgia writers, past and present, whose work reflects the character of the state, its land and its people. A board of judges selects two or more writers for induction each year based on an open nomination process. More information on the program, including a nomination form, can be found at www.libs.uga.edu/gawriters/index.html.

Barks has published six collections of his own poetry, numerous poetry translations, and his work has appeared in a wide array of anthologies, textbooks and journals.

“Considerable whimsy, a common feature in Barks’ poetry, occurs alongside a tendency toward the meditative, an appreciation of the natural world, and an interest in people and relationships,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. “Barks is especially effective in longer narrative poems, which he typically begins by focusing on a specific subject or theme that he then extends into wider speculations. The influence of Rumi and other mystic poets Barks has translated is evident in the longer poems.”

Barks began translating the 19th-century Sufi mystic Jelaluddin Rumi following a conversation with bestselling author Robert Bly. He has published nearly two dozen volumes of Rumi translations. Barks has been interviewed by Bill Moyers as part of two Public Broadcasting Service television series on poetry and his translations of Rumi appear in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. The Essential Rumi has appeared on nonfiction best-seller lists around the United States.

Bottoms’ first book, Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump, was chosen by Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren from more than 1,300 submissions as winner of the 1979 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. In 1982, Bottoms began teaching at Georgia State University and co-founded the Five Points literary magazine.

Over the years Bottoms has received many awards for his work, including the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, an Ingram Merrill Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and an award in literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He has been published widely in such publications as the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Harper's, Poetry, and the Paris Review, as well as in some two dozen anthologies and textbooks.

“In his poetry and fiction Bottoms draws on the geography, traditions and people of Georgia and the South to create poems of lyrical beauty and narrative force,” a nomination to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame said.

“One cannot read him without being touched by his sardonic yet compassionate countryman’s voice, his hunter’s irony,” said author James Dickey.

Bottoms was appointed by former Gov. Roy Barnes as Georgia’s poet laureate in 2000.

Andrews was born to a sharecropper’s family in Morgan County and left at 15 to work and attend school in Atlanta at the only public night high school for blacks in Georgia. After serving in the military, Andrews settled in New York City before returning to Georgia in 1980.

“Raymond Andrews’ cycle of three novels about the fictional Muskhogean County, Georgia, represent a benchmark of literary, cultural and social history,” according to a 1998 article in the Southern Literacy Journal. The first of these novels, Appalachee Red, won the James Baldwin Prize for Fiction in 1978. His last fictional publication, Jessie and Jesus and Cousin Claire, won the 1992 American Book Award.

“In his writing, Andrews draws upon his personal experience as a youth in a small sharecropping community in the South,” according to Gale’s Contemporary Authors. “He has set each of his novels in the town of Appalachee, the county seat of the fictional Muskhogean County in northern Georgia. The close connection between Andrews’ stories and their setting is part of their appeal.”

Burch, author of 19 books, is a Fayette County native. Best known for his children’s books, including Queenie Peavy and Ida Early Comes Over the Mountain, Burch was honored with four Georgia Children’s Book Awards. Growing up in Georgia during the 1930s, Burch’s stories frequently focus on rural life during the Great Depression.

Robert J. Burch Elementary School in Tyrone is named after the author. A month before his death, Burch became the first recipient of the W. Porter Kellam Lifetime Achievement Award, named for a former director of the University of Georgia Libraries to honor outstanding contributions to literary life in Georgia.

For more information contact Jean Cleveland, 706-542-8079, jclevela@uga.edu.

  

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Jean Cleveland

706-542-8079