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April 2005
Ultima Thule
by Davis McCombs

[featured in the bookclub Poetry Special]

Definitions of the phrase ultima thule range from “the most distant goal of human endeavor” to “the acme” to “a land remote beyond reckoning.” Davis McCombs takes us both above and below ground and back and forth in time in the cave country of Southcentral Kentucky in this collection of poetry, which concerns itself with all of those things. The poems in Ultima Thule have a deep connection with nature and a strong awareness of the layers of time that a place can accumulate. The first section is in the voice of Stephen Bishop, an African-American slave who served as a cave guide in the 1800s. McCombs also has worked as a guide at Mammoth, and the poems told in a more autobiographical voice explore the separateness and yet interdependence of the world below and the world above, the intertwining of past and present, and the role of man today in dealing with history.

Blurbs from the book jacket

Card catalog entry from the Library of Congress

Publisher’s information page from Yale University Press information page

Barnes and Noble information page

Review from the Austin Chronicle

Mammoth Cave National Park

Black History at Mammorth Cave

Davis McCombs

Profile from the University of Arkansas

Author’s statement, with excerpts from Ultima Thule

Disappearing Tobacco Farm Culture Inspires Award-Winning Poet—an article about McCombs’ Tobacco Mosaic Series

McCombs reading two of his poems about Mammoth Cave.

Profile and photos from McCombs’ 2000 appearance on KET’s Mixed Media

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