There. Now don’t you want to go ahead and order this book? I don’t blame you. It moves. It’s moving. Listen, I sat down a couple of hours ago, intending to write more or less a few sentences, crib some jacket-copy, etc. Really just to get this thing on your radar. But here I am later in the evening, still thinking through the book’s dynamism. Force. I said something earlier about an arc of grief. The truth is that was cheating. I originally wrote it on Facebook, just a half-sentence a while back about how much I liked the book. But I wanted to fit it in here. Language is nothing if not mercurial, right? No. I think I mean something more stable though no less open to change. Not Burroughs’s virus, but Bohr’s model. I haven’t yet mentioned love and death and familial responsibility, ritual, ruin. It’s all here. And it’s tied to our shared literature so gracefully and with such understated surety that I feel like I’ve lived with these poems for years. They’re ours. They’ve always been.
paperback, 68 pages, 6 x 9 in
Publication Date: 2013
A striking second collection by a poet of minimalist intimacy and magnifying insights
Christina Davis’s An Ethic begins with the death of a loved one and proceeds to widen the gyre of that loss—as constructs of here and now, near and far, human and animal begin to fall away or be questioned. Compared by Forrest Gander to the works of George Oppen, this minimalist meditation looks back to the 19th century ideals of Muir, Thoreau and Whitman, and forward to a new unity.
“Here is a book that has flapped up out of the startled dark of a parent’s death. Into the moment of recognition of a life apart. A part of life. The syntax, precise and probing, repeatedly extends beyond only apparent completions, beyond easy finalities, into an always unforeseen. As though a living hand were reaching out of the poem and—.”
Despite its minimalist aesthetic, Davis’s second collection is anything but coy; the poems are slim and brief, but not light. The collection, which begins its considerations of grief and absence with a father’s death and widens outward, is inaugurated with a single conviction: “There is no this or that world.” What follows is a rigorous meditation on this premise, a refusal of the notion that one passes from presence into absence, from life into death, as if by bridge or tunnel. Rather, presence and absence, life and death, coexist—and we are daily challenged to reconcile their simultaneity. Perhaps this is an idea that is best taken small bites, as not to overwhelm; the poem “Addendum” is simply: “Who was it said: ‘AND/ is the greatest/ miracle’? Praise// be his/her name.” And yet, the poems overwhelm, overflow with syntactic attempts to embody the slipperiness of coming to terms with the paradoxical mass of an absent thing, the weight of the hole. These poems are as conspicuously minimal as they are unsuspectingly heavy, and it is by achieving both of these effects at once that they prove that we and our grief are blessed to occupy the same space.