Joy and courage flow through the pages of Lauren Davis’ new, full-length collection of poetry. Titled “Home Beneath the Church,” it’s just out on Fernwood Press, and it has both the author and me floored.
I asked Davis, who has worked at Port Townsend’s Imprint Bookstore since 2017, how it felt to have this book finished. She wasn’t shy in responding.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve dreamed of this moment my whole life,” Davis told me.“Home Beneath” is her most personal work so far. Which is saying a lot. She has published two chapbooks, “Each Wild Thing’s Consent” on Poetry Wolf Press and, one year ago, “The Missing Ones,” a collection about Blanch and Russell Warren, the couple who disappeared at Lake Crescent in 1929. This suite of poems, in which Davis seeks to give Blanch a voice, came out as a limited-edition book on Winter texts of Port Townsend.
Davis added she likes to think all of her work is personal, even if her confessions are cloaked in metaphor. “Home Beneath,” she told me, was not an easy book to write. She wanted to censor herself many times, but kept thinking of the question the poet Thomas James’ mentor asked him: “What is it you’ve been hiding from?”
So into the scary places we go: love, sex, the body. The deep forest, the wild creatures. The poet takes us by the hand and leads us into the dark and darker. Then into the light.
In “If I Were a Resurrection Fern,” Davis imagines her mate as “the wind-whipped rain,” ending the drought, pouring down and down, “my sky-dropped lake.”
Nothing can keep us apart, she writes. In this rainfall, “I revive, baptized.”
Later this month, Davis will teach at the Writers’ Workshoppe, Imprint’s sister business. Her class is titled “Love Letter to the Self,” and it’s for those who want to do some experimenting.
“I think many poets struggle to write from a place of celebration,” Davis told me.
“I think it’s much more comfortable for many of us to write about what haunts and wounds us. So I wanted to offer a workshop that challenges poets to celebrate themselves.
“I also wanted to challenge myself along with them.”
This “Love Letter” is one among many poetry, essay and novel-writing workshops local writers — Gary Copeland Lilley, Peter Quinn, Nicole Persun, Kathryn Hunt — are teaching online in the coming weeks. Details await at www.imprintbookstore.com.
Davis, who holds a master of fine arts from the Bennington College Writing Seminars in Vermont, is effusive in her thanks to the women she’s come to know in her adopted Pacific Northwest. In “Home Beneath the Church’s” acknowledgements, she thanks the Writers’ Workshoppe, “which gave me a writing family on another coast,” as well as Risa Denenberg, Jayne Marek, Kelli Russell Agodon, and Ronda Broatch, “the forever big-hearted Upstairs Poets.” Denenberg brought the group together upstairs at the Writers’ Workshoppe before the pandemic.
Reading a book’s acknowledgements can be such a bonus, as they clue us in about other writers to check out. And Davis, when I interviewed her, noted yet another poet who’s shown her the way: the San Francisco-born Sharon Olds, known for her directness.
“In a way, her poetry gave me permission to tell my truth. I’m not sure I could have written some of these lines without her work,” Davis said.
Next the poet shared further good news: She’s just signed a contract with Aldrich Press for her second full-length collection of poems, titled “When I Drowned.” It’s slated for release in winter 2023.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] dailynews.com. Her column runs the first and third Wednesdays of the month; the next will appear Feb. 16.