Writer-in-Residence Dr. James May Receives Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award

Dr. James May

MACON – Dr. James Davis May, writer-in-residence and lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was recently awarded the 2019 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award for his poem “Red in Tooth and Claw.”

Dr. May penned the poem to mourn the loss of a friend who died several years after being diagnosed with – and seemingly having recovered from – cancer.

“The basic premise is this: The night my friend died, I saw a feral cat stalking our yard, hoping for a mouse or bird to kill. It might seem silly, but on that night, the cat’s motives appalled me – why look for more death on this night?,” said Dr. May. “The poem wishes for ‘everything to be better than it is,’ so the poem’s speaker leaves a saucer of milk out for the cat, who, it appears, drinks the milk overnight. It’s a gesture for civility in the face of incivility, which seemed right at the time.”

The 2019 Readers’ Choice Award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize, was selected from among this year’s Rattle Poetry Prize finalists by subscriber vote.

“Red in Tooth and Claw” is featured, along with the other finalists’ poems, in Rattle No. 66, and it will be published on the magazine’s website in April.

“A lot of poetry prizes are decided by a single judge, usually a prominent poet, which, obviously, is an honor, but this award is a little different in that the subscribers of the magazine, people who have literally invested in the magazine, vote on the prize, making it all the more rewarding to be the recipient,” said Dr. May.

Dr. May joined Mercer’s faculty last fall and will serve as director of the creative writing program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the 2020-2021 academic year.

His teaching interests include creative writing, Polish poetry and American poetry, particularly the work of Robert Frost.

He is the author of the poetry collection Unquiet Things (LSU Press), which was selected as a finalist for the Poets’ Prize. His poems have appeared in the New England Review, New Republic, Southern Review, The Sun and other journals.

“We are excited that Dr. May has been selected for this honor, and pleased that he joined the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” said Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson, dean of the College. “We look forward to him directing Mercer’s creative writing program, and I am sure that he will lead that program to new levels of excellence.”

Dr. May previously served as an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Young Harris College. He earned his Ph.D. from Georgia State University, M.F.A. from the University of Houston and B.A. from Allegheny College.

Rattle is a publication of the Rattle Foundation, an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the practice of poetry. The magazine is printed quarterly and maintains a website at Rattle.com.