Williams' The Flower Seeker, Published by Mercer University Press, Named Book of the Year by Books & Culture Magazine

Statue of Jesse Mercer on the Mercer campus.

MACON — Prominent national literary magazine Books & Culture has named The Flower Seeker: An Epic Poem of William Bartram as its book of the year. The epic poem, by Philip Lee Williams and published by Mercer University Press, is written from the perspective of 18th Century naturalist William Bartram and based on his book, The Travels.

The Flower Seeker is one of two books published by Mercer Press as part of its Bartram Project. The reviewers praised the book for “pay(ing) homage to the epic tradition in a distinctively American way. Curiosity and delight, beauty and sadness, loss and yearning, and all the ‘fragrant disorder of this world’ are mingled here in a narrative that suggests the gratuitous abundance of Creation itself.”

“I was completely stunned,” Williams recalled of hearing of the honor. “It certainly made my Christmas. I was pleased for me, but equally happy for Mercer University and for Mercer University Press. It does my heart good to see the Press getting national recognition for their work and it has been a joy for me to be involved in this project.”

Williams was inspired by classic epic poems in his youth, including The Iliad, The Odyssey and Dante’s Divine Comedy, and he said it was always his goal to write such a poem. A nature writer and longtime admirer of Bartram, Williams was inspired to make Bartram’s journey the subject of his poem. Williams spent years researching the form and two years writing the book. The resulting work was enhanced through the collaboration of Williams, Mercer Press editors and design firm Burt & Burt. The Flower Seeker features painstaking detail in its design, winding 24 cantos through numerous visual twists, including innovative typography, interspersed with drawings by Bartram and other artists. The book is published in three editions, including paperback, a hardcover edition and special limited edition hardcover, 91 signed, numbered copies that include a full-color plate by artist Philp Juras and a ribbon bookmark. Both hardcover editions include a CD with a suite composed by Williams, Williams reading from the book and a historic recording of the Keowee River, which Bartram forded in his travels but has since been obliterated by development.

“This award is a huge honor for Philip Lee Williams and for Mercer Press,” said Dr. Marc Jolley, director of Mercer University Press. “His writing is among the very best in the country and recognition of his work such as this does not surprise me, but it is truly wonderful. From the first moment I began reading it in manuscript form I knew it was special. This book is one of the most creative and beautifully written books I have ever read and it was a joy to be a part of its creation.”

Williams is the author of 15 published books, has written about the natural world most of his career and taught nature writing at the University of Georgia, from which he retired in March. He is the winner of numerous literary awards, including the national Michael Shaara Prize for his 2004 novel, A Distant Flame. Among his earlier books from Mercer University Press are In the Morning: Reflections from First Light (essays), The Campfire Boys (novel), and a collection of poetry, Elegies for the Water.

In addition to Williams’ book, the Bartram Project also includes Bartram’s Living Legacy: the Travels and the Nature of the South, which includes a reprint of Bartram’s classic work alongside essays acknowledging the debt Southern nature writers owe the man called the “South’s Thoreau.” The anthology includes contributions from 16 of the South’s finest nature writers and is strikingly illustrated with Bartram-inspired landscape paintings of Philip Juras.

About Mercer University Press
Established in 1979, Mercer University Press celebrated its 30th anniversary and has published more than 1,200 books. Operated by an eight-member staff, the press publishes more than 35 books annually. The reputation of the Press significantly enhances the academic environment of the University and carries the name of Mercer throughout the world.  The Press seeks and acquires manuscripts that contribute to the advancement of knowledge; publishes monographs and other texts in the humanities, primarily in history, philosophy, religion, and Southern studies; and disseminates these publications internationally to students, scholars, and libraries. The annual Authors Luncheon is a fundraiser for Mercer University Press.  For more information, visit www.mupress.org.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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