Friday, January 16, 2015

Revising The Storm - Geffrey Davis (BOA Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Revising The Storm.  Geffrey Davis.  BOA Editions, Ltd.  Rochester, N.Y.
2014.

Winner of the A. POULIN JR. POETRY PRIZE



Geffrey Davis writes with harsh beauty.  His poems are an honest and eloquent attempt to suss out what it really means to be a man, and what it takes to get there.

Fatherhood is opened up like a gutted crack-smoking fish -- yet Davis finds moments of subtle and soothing beauty with a lock on language that staggers the reader.  Davis is not playing fair, he's a rumbling storm of lightning.

Revising The Storm is one of those books of utterly complex simplicity.  You think that Davis is operating with a new spectrum of light in order to see the black and white truth.  He let's you believe those things, momentarily at least, and then educates the reader with an expansive understanding of all shades of grey.

What I Mean When I Say Farmhouse

          Time's going has ebbed the moorings
to the memories that make this city-kid

          part farm-boy. Until a smell close enough to
the sweet-musk of horse tunes my ears back

          to tree frogs blossoming after a country rain
I'm back among snakes like slugs wedged

          in ankle-high grass, back inside that small
eternity spent searching for soft ground, straining

         not to spill the water-logged heft of a drowned
barn cat carried in the shallow scoop of a shovel.

          And my brother, large on the stairs, crying.
Each shift in the winds of remembering renders me

          immediate again, like ancient valleys reignited
by more lightning. If only I could settle on

          the porch of waiting and listening,
near the big maple bent by children and heat,

          just before the sweeping threat of summer
thunderstorms. We have our places for

          loneliness -- that loaded asking of the body.
My mother stands beside the kitchen window, her hands

          no longer in constant motion. And my father
walks along the tired fence, watching horses

          and clouds roll down against the dying light --
I know he wants to become one or the other.

         I want to jar the tenderness of seasons,
to crawl deep into the moment. I've come

          to write less fear into the boy running
through the half-dark. I've come for the boy.

...

These poems read like the potent prayers of a new kind of mystic.  Geffrey Davis has deeper vision, wider breadth, a bigger wounded heart, than most of us.  But good Lord, this man can write.

The journey he takes with his father is epic in scale and junkie broke.

These poems are emotionally searing but you don't always see it coming.  They work on you like a pot of water on the stove for the lobster, you start it off cold, flame up slowly, and the lucky/unlucky lobster never sees the flame, doesn't notice the rising temperature (or so we think), and then these brilliant poems sneak up on you, cook your ass off.

King County Metro

In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man
boarding the bus, the one she's already

turning into my father. His style (if you can
call it that): disarming disregard -- a loud

Hawaiian-print shirt and knee-high tube socks
that reach up the deep tone of his legs,

toward the dizzying orange of running shorts.
Outside, the gray city blocks lurch

past wet windows, as he starts his shy sway
down the aisle. Months will pass

before he shatters his ankle during a Navy drill,
the service discharging him back into the everyday

teeth of the world. Two of four kids will arrive
before he meets the friend who teaches him

the art of roofing and, soon after, the crack pipe --
the attention it takes to manage either

without destroying the hands. The air brakes gasp
as he approaches my mother's row,

each failed rehab and jail sentence still
decades off in the distance. So much waits

in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.
And my mother, who will take twenty years

to burn out her love for him, hesitates a moment
before making room beside her -- the striking

brown face, poised above her head, smiling.
My mother will blame all that happens,

both good and bad, on this smile, which glows now,
ready to consume half of everything it gives.

...

This is supposed to be a first book but I find it hard to believe.  So did everyone around the office, the consensus was that Davis must have published a dozen or so under different names.

Geffrey Davis writes with such hard won experience you'd think some these poems came from a deeper well than his tender years would allow, further than we can fathom.  These poems personify grace under pressure.

These poems resonate with such tenderness that the terror almost vanishes.

More Than Forgery

I.

In middle school, I practiced
signing my father's name, for days,

filled empty sheets of paper secretly in class,
comparing his graceful autograph to the frauds.

The beginning tripped me up -- the capital A --
his detail so hard to copy: the tight flourish

of ink just before the first downstroke of the pen.
Because I worried over penmanship, because,

like him, I favored an unfinished cursive,
I watched my forgeries lean toward the real thing

before endorsing the backs of his V.A. checks,
piled up during the months he vanished into rehabs

or chased fixes: Pay to the order of food to hush
our rumblings. The checks kept us

in lights and warm water.


II.

                                            Or the way my father
tapped his foot while playing the guitar: he kept

a different, distant beat -- the one to play against.
The lyrics he belted became wounds riding the air

and left me, the boy who wished and wept for birds,
fighting off tears so he would sing another hour.

By high school, I knew he'd left for good.
His A stayed in my hand.

It flares up in every Adam or Alinique
I write -- in every love letter I end, Always yours.

...

Today's book of poetry is honoured to present this book to its' readers.  Geffrey Davis, in Revisiting The Storm, is what most poets aspire to, except better.

This collection is so strong, but never brash, it's tender broken love fills your heart with every page.

Astounding stuff - the consensus around the office is that Revising The Storm is one of the best we've seen.

Geffrey Davis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geffrey Davis holds an MFA from Penn State University, where he is completing a doctoral dissertation on American poetics. A Cave Canem fellow, Davis is also the recipient of the 2013 Dogwood First Prize in Poetry, the 2012 Wabash Prize for Poetry, the 2012 Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, and the 2013 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize.

BLURBS
“...Geffrey Davis translates and transforms our contemporary modes of love, violence and history. Revising the Stormfeels written by a poet who has traversed several previous lives and honed them into a language of beautiful survival. Urgent, tender, imaginative: this is a tremendous debut.”
 —Terrance Hayes

“Geffrey Davis interrogates masculinity— as brother, son, father, lover—to examine the sources of love’s enduring and failed aspects ... I admire Davis’ emotional vocabulary, his attentive generosity and tenderness. Keep your eye on this gifted newcomer.”
 —Robin Becker

"Geffrey Davis is spellbinding. He knows how to bring even the smallest heartbreaking detail to light. Tenderly but firmly, he leads us down many paths toward the center of a life..."  
--Dorianne Laux

ANNE HALEY PRIZE READING
Geffrey Davis reading from Revising The Storm


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Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.