Davis McCombs is a poet who also guides tour groups through Mammoth Cave (when he's not a Parking-Lot Guy). Davis' credentials include a Bachelor's degree from Harvard; University of Virginia - Master of Fine Arts; and Stanford - Stegner Writing Fellowship. He also went to Indiana University just long enough to pick up the $15,000 Ruth Lilly poetry prize.
His latest award is from Yale University. Davis is the winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award. W.S. Merwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, judged him the winner, calling Davis' writing "quiet, understated, delicate as a hand exploring a tunnel in the dark." Davis' prize-winning poems are collected in a new book, "Ultima Thule."
Many of the poems concern his adventures on - and under - the earth near his hometown of Munfordville. A great source of inspiration of his work is the early cave explorer and slave, Stephen Bishop. "He is without a doubt the greatest explorer in the history of Mammoth Cave. He found miles and miles of cave, caving by himself, no helmet, no kneepads, an open-flame lantern. Almost everything we show to the public on tours was found by Stephen Bishop. He was just by all accounts an extraordinary person...and he became kind of an attraction himself. He was famous," stated Davis.
"As soon as I started writing the cave poems, I wanted to write about him," Davis says. "I had to write it from his perspective." The poems written in Bishop's "voice" form the first section of "Ultima Thule."