Category Archives: Published Books

Book Launch at Faire Isle Bookstore for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 9.10.24 PMThe book launch with Deb Wayman at Faire Isle Bookstore for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams was spectacular.  The novel is about a community of slaves escaping from the boot heel of Missouri near Mingo Swamp to West Harbor on Washington Island off the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin before the Civil War.  Faire Isle is a small store, so it was so crowded that my daughter Mary and son in law Rick stood outside to listen to the reading I gave.  The engagement of the audience, many of whom had families that had lived on the island for generations, was exciting.  There were people who had already read the novel at the launch and they, like the reviewers so far, were highly complimentary, and even excited about the novel.  The launch was a wonderful experience.  I pretty sold out of all the books I had originally ordered and will have to order more today.

 

 

 

 

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In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams Released!

My new novel, In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams, has just been put on the market by All Things That Matter Press.  It’s available at Independent Bookstores as well as on amazon, https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732723788/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=In+the+Unsettled+Homeland+of+Dreams&qid=1566256736&s=books&sr=1-1.

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Cover for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams

All Things That Matter Press (ATTMP) has just sent me the cover for In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams, my new novel about the black fisherman community that settled on Washington Island off Door County before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. ATTMP is shooting for an early August release. After better than sixteen drafts, I’m ready!
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Ethel Mortenson Davis Book Named Among Outstanding Poetry Collections for 2018

The Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) gives out yearly awards for outstanding books published each year. This year Ethel Mortenson Davis’s book, Under the Tail of the Milky Way Galaxy has just been recognized as one of seven outstanding books of poetry by Wisconsin poets.

The announcement by the WLA is below:

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Companion Poems by Standing Feather and Ethel Mortenson Davis

Standing Feather, who, along with John Looker over in Great Britain, is one of the greatest of contemporary poets, sent a special email to Ethel Mortenson Davis the other day. He sent a poem, “Mariposa,” which is, in effect, a companion poem to Ethel’s poem, “Circles,” which was published in her book, White Ermine Across Her Shoulders” in 2011. They are both magnificent works of art. Standing Feather’s new poem is presented first, followed by Ethel’s older work:

Mariposa

New Mexico is full of dirt roads
that snake around sandstone mesas
and then straighten into vast expanses
before reaching any stop signs or pavement.
From the mesa tops you can see old trucks
rambling along the valley floor,
making dust that blows sideways
across stretching generations of rocks and people.

There is nothing like riding passenger
in an old truck, and as a child
I set the pace of my life
by Uncle Pink’s ‘66 Ford.
I knew the inner workings of the beast
from my years jockeying on the cracked leather seat.
The power of the vibrations climbed my spine
and rolled from my crown in great waves.

Youth’s wine-filled days are gone.
Today I stopped along a dirt road
to accept an invitation from the mariposa lilies.
Their power to stay rooted while waving in the spring wind
is like old trucks. Both offer rugged simplicity
to compliment the density of the rocks above.
I must be moving on. Remembering Aunt Ethel,
I crank my windows down to listen for the song of the meadowlarks.

Standing Feather 4-19

Circles

When I drive
through the desert,
I keep the windows rolled down
and usually hear a few notes
from the meadow lark.
New Mexico is full of bird life.

This morning, after last night’s shower,
I heard the clicks
of the Rufus hummingbird
through my car’s open window-
a metallic pinging sound-
like electric highline wires make
when you stand under them.

The hummingbird kisses
the delicate circuits
of the eco-systems.

In the north
the snowmobiles run
the gray wolf to exhaustion.
Once the gray wolf
was chased with dog sleds
or snow-shoes
and had a chance
to escape.

The wolf bites at his body
where the bullet enters,
shattering his flesh and bone,
shattering the delicate circles of life.

Ethel Mortenson Davis 2011

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Anishinabe Warrior

Ethel Mortenson Davis’s drawing is the perfect artwork for the cover of the epic:

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An American Spirit, An American Epic Published

by Thomas Davis

On January 1, 1975 I was working as a teacher at the Menominee County Community School when the Menominee Warrior Society took over the Alexian Brother’s Novitiate in Gresham, Wisconsin. Ethel and I were living in the Gresham trailer park at the time, and on January 2, a Monday, I drove into work as usual. I was a little nervous about taking my usual route down County Road VV since the news about the Novitiate was dominating local media and the old building was not far off my route, but I was pretty dedicated to the Community School and had no intention of missing work.

Sure enough, as I drove toward the Menominee County line, men in uniform, holding rifles in their hands, were blocking the road ahead of me. I remember a lot of snow on the ground, and it was cold. January in northern Wisconsin can be brutal. I drove up to where the men were standing, stopped, rolled down the window, and, after a conversation of several minutes, convinced them I was a teacher on my way to work. The men were tense and nervous and that was obvious in their questioning of me.

By that evening the Novitiate takeover dominated television and print news all over the world. However, other events were brewing in Shawano County where the Novitiate was located that would not make news until later. The Posse Comitatus, conspiracy minded, anti government, anti Semitic, white supremacist Christians, was beginning to stir and develop as an armed militia force, and even a cult with a mysterious origin was preparing to form a compound on land purchased not far from the old Menominee Reservation’s borders.

Four Windows Press has just released an epic poem that blends these, and other elements present in Shawano County from those momentous times, into an epic story. An American Spirit, an American Epic is a fictional poem. I worked hard to avoid portraying any real individual, even though I knew several of those who took over the Novitiate, in a story that rages with reality and magic, blending all the elements of Shawano County and the Novitiate takeover into a massive river of events told in traditional iambic pentameter meter. But there are powerful truths woven out of the heart of where we are at in American society today in the story.

The Editor of a small literary journal in Stevens Point, Wisconsin published two brief passages from the epic in Hepcat’s Revenge in April of 1995.   Just before the passages appeared Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building, giving warning of what was about to become a significant thread in American life. In his commentary on the passages he published, the Editor said that An American Spirit was prophetic. He also commented that there were a lot of pages of strong poetry. Given events such as the deadly Charlottesville riots and President Trump’s racist attitude toward American Indians, it’s difficult to avoid the prescience of the Editor’s judgment.

I have not published the epic before now partially because I was reluctant to self-publish it and partially because I have always wondered if it would be more controversial as a work of art than I wished to face. There are so many questions about it in my head. This is the only R rated work of literature I have ever written. The Posse Comitatus still exists under another name, and the epic does not treat them well, as is appropriate, and I used a lot of American Indian content derived from books noted in the footnotes. Should a non-Indian author do that? I have worked for the Indian controlled schools and tribal colleges and universities movements most of my life. The wisdom of American Indian culture is deep and wonderful, but it is their culture and belongs only to each tribe’s unique ethos.

The truth is that even though the epic is available through amazon.com, I do not intend to market it aggressively like I do my other books. I believe it explores the American spirit in a way that it should be explored. American society is not a melting pot where races, ethnicities, and political identities are blended into a single whole. Rather, it is a complex explosion of identities played out inside the great pageant of history that is always becoming an uncertain future. Conflict and resolution stir in surprising and unexpected ways, giving Americans an identity that is never static, but spins its forces in ways threatening the continuance of the natural world and even human beings who depend upon that world for existence.

The magic elements of the epic are derived from two main sources, although other sources can be found in the body of the poem. Many of the magical allusions are drawn from the Old or New Testament of the Holy Bible. American society for a large part of its history up until the current day has been a culture imbued with the Christian religion. However, in counterpoint to Christianity, the also epic explores the power of the feminine and fertility based upon the tenants of the White Goddess of Celtic lore and other ancient symbols of female power. The conflict between the father dominance and the fall out of the Garden of Eden and the powers of Mother Earth has long seemed to me to be a ferment helping to define current day American society.

Even though, I admit, I am hesitant to invite comments from those who read An American Spirit, An American Epic, I hope those who are willing to delve into its pages feel free to tell me what they think. This is one of the major works, written a long time ago, of my life. I need to steel myself for whatever reception it does, or does not, receive.

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