Forth A Raven

Overview

In the Book of Genesis, Noah sends forth a raven and a dove to test the status of the flood. The return of the dove is widely celebrated, but the fate of the raven—the bird who speaks—is left ambiguous. In Christina Davis’ luminous first collection of poems, her questions are those raised by the journey of the raven and what he represents: language and communication, risk, exile and mortality.

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Overview

In the Book of Genesis, Noah sends forth a raven and a dove to test the status of the flood. The return of the dove is widely celebrated, but the fate of the raven—the bird who speaks—is left ambiguous. In Christina Davis’ luminous first collection of poems, her questions are those raised by the journey of the raven and what he represents: language and communication, risk, exile and mortality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“These poems are so bright they hurt: urgent and necessary, they explode and shatter into original wholeness, reclaiming for Soul its own language—fierce, challenging, and spare. This is a book Emily would have kept by her bedside. About it, she might have said, ‘Here is a newness in the wind to trouble your attention.’”—Susan Mitchell

“The poems in this first collection from Davis…are taut and spare and show an obvious love of language. A fine, compelling collection.”—Library Journal

"Christina Davis sends forth a wild bird in her magical first collection, and it carries messages that are at once oracular, urgent, and utterly authentic. She has inscribed a true book of mysteries."—Edward Hirsch

"In the oddity and rightness of these poems, it’s 'As if there were just one/of each word, and the one/who used it, used it up.' Out of this economy, the voice that emerges—rueful like Dickinson, wryly charming like Szymborska—pushes the boundaries of contemporary lyric by being both runic and absolutely clear."—Tom Sleigh

Publishers Weekly
Simple metaphysical questioning characterizes this strong first collection: "Every question/ I have ever asked," says Davis's title poem, "could be ground down to// Do you love me? Will I die?" Davis brings a psychological acuity and a mythic, laconic approach (reminiscent sometimes of Louise Gluck) to a spare universe of ravens, mountains and purgatorial reminiscences: one of many poems about the afterlife inquires, "Does anyone ever ask to return as himself again?" Davis uses religious language, both pagan (Odin's ravens) and biblical (Noah's birds), along with forms of prayer, to explore a postreligious world marked by family trauma, skeptical hopes and (unspecified) illness; adaptations of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, Emily Dickinson, Woolf, Rilke and others, provide additional reference and range. The sparseness of imagery can risk placing too much weight on unsurprising phrases, as when Davis asks "what love is." Usually, though, her demanding attitudes and her unembellished poems fit together well-"As if there were just one/ of each word and the one/ who used it, used it up." The result is a head-turning debut. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The poems in this first collection from Davis (associate director, NYU Creative Writing Prog.; ed., Illuminations: Great Writers on Writing) are taut and spare and show an obvious love of language. "There is a Zulu word for far,/ which means: where a man cries/ "Mother, I am lost." From the opening Genesis quote (the origin of the title poem) they spin a fantasy-like, incantatory quality that at the same time seems no-nonsense, real. "In the dream, we take god out of the attic and put back the birds,/ higher than human/ but horizontal." The natural world is filtered here through Davis's transforming lens, where it becomes something to be discovered anew. Some of the poems are reminiscent of a game of connect-the-dots, fairy tales full of strange aphorisms: "They say men tend to head in the direction/ of their handedness. So I look for you/ on the right." The best poems here-and there are many good ones-are blessed with an elegiac surprise: "Then, I thought of what all/ I have never opened:/ a coffin, a parachute, someone else's scab." A fine, compelling collection; recommended for all libraries.-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781882295579
  • Publisher: Alice James Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2006
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Christina Davis holds an MA from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Phil.in Modernist Literature from the University of Oxford. Her poems and reviews have been published widely, and she is the editor of Illuminations: Great Writers on Writing.The recipient of residencies to Yaddo, Bread Loaf, the MacDowell Colony, and the Valparaiso Foundation in Spain. She is associate director of the NYU Creative Writing Program.

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Read an Excerpt

Forth A Raven


By Christina Davis

Alice James Books

Copyright © 2006 Christina Davis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781882295579


"Nostalgia for the Infinite”

Each time we moved,

I wanted to come back as a tree.
And each time we stayed, as a bird.

Does anyone ever ask to return as himself again?

I wanted to be a tree
and myself-seeing-the-tree,

a bird and myself-being-the-bird.


O creatures-in-law…



Continues...

Excerpted from Forth A Raven by Christina Davis Copyright © 2006 by Christina Davis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Forth a raven 3
Advertisement for the mountain 4
O who may abide 5
The outset 6
Nostalgia for the infinite 8
The half-life 9
In search of a jury 10
Monadnock 11
Urban hymn 12
Wave hill 13
Border patrol 14
The sadness of the Lingua Franca 17
Any man may be called a pilgrim who leaveth the place of his birth 18
In the shrine of the holy dirt 19
Revival 20
Palmistry 21
Circuitry 22
Jubilat 23
The primer 25
Birds of every wing shall dwell within 26
Homesickness 27
How to play house 29
The raven's book 30
The humanities 37
Two theories of western art 38
Understudies 39
Two varieties of passion plays 40
Dramatis personae 41
Third person 42
The great fire 43
West house 44
Preternatural 45
The calling 46
Bluegrass 47
Last words 48
Echoes tuned to an origin 49
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