Category Archives: Thomas Davis

Should Poets Only Sing of Love and Light?

a sonnet by Thomas Davis

What responsibility do poets
assume once they have started writing verse?
Walking through the universe inchoate
has been rejected when their words immerse
them in the streams of dreams, emotions, thoughts
taking shape upon an empty page
and reaching out to other spirits caught
in living’s fears, hopes, love, joys, dread, and rage.

Should poets only sing of love and light?
Images that burn the retina like a flash
of lightning streaking through a sky’s black night?
Or is there reason for their lifetime’s cache
of words to speak of justice, truth, destruction,
the possibility of life’s extinction?

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Ekphrasis Poetry

Ethel and I participated in a Write On Door County Art Speak’s event at the Kress Center in Egg Harbor earlier this week.  Francha Barnard led the group, and we produced two poems after looking at the art on display on loan to the Kress from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay.

Snow Goose

by Ethel Mortenson Davis

An ekphrasis poem from Kendra Bulgrin’s painting:
“All In A Dream”

She was startled
out of sleep
by a sound
and ran in bed clothes
to the water’s edge.

There, along a blackened beach,
a snow goose lay dying.
She knelt down
near it’s limp body,
cradling it with her torso’s warmth
all through the night.

In the morning
she woke from the dream—
the snow goose gone,
but its softness
lingering long across
the front of her chest,
its message seared
in her mind.

When An Artist Drew an Owl’s Portrait

by Thomas Davis

A response after seeing Rebecca Job’s painting, “Glow” —
This started as an ekphrasis poem, but, as with most poetry, carved its own path during the writing process, metamorphosing into a poem about a pastel, “Barn Owl,” I saw Ethel Mortenson Davis draw.

A full moon, bone white as fine china, shines
through young white pine needles branching into night —

but she isn’t aware of the night’s moon, or its darkness.
A box of multi-colored pastels, half used down to the nubbings:
and she leans over the hand-crafted dining room table,
big light overhead,
staring at black paper,
eyes where her spirit is.

Inside her stillness you can feel the predator’s feralness,
alertness tense with consecrated concentration,

and then, as if her prey is shocked,
fate suspended in time,
her hands blur, her whole body moving,
as lines slash into blackness
and smear color, movement
into an owl plunging claws silently
toward an unseen mouse.

In less than a thousand heartbeats,
as the round moon shines,
the barn owl is frozen into black paper,
wings flared, large eyes swimming
with claws, silence, wings, death,

LIFE.

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In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams Book Signing

I did a book presentation and signing at Novel Bay Booksellers in Sturgeon Bay today from 2 to 4 p.m. A crowd showed up and a bunch of that novel and other books that I have written sold. Ethel came and took a couple of photographs. Thanks go to John Maggitti and Liz Welter for sponsoring a great event!

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Peninsula Pulse’s Review of In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams

A great review of “In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams”  has been published in “The Peninsula Pulse,” a publication that distributes about 9,000 copies in the winter. The summer circulation is more like 16,000. It is by far the best local coverage publication I know about, and I appreciate this review by Alissa Ehmke.

My daughters, Sonja Bingen and Mary Wood, posted this on their Facebook pages, alerting me to this.

 

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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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Beneath the Red Cliffs

by Thomas Davis

for April Chischilly

Beneath red cliffs as first morning light reflects fire
into an impossibly blue sky,
a Navajo woman, aging, calm, long black hair and black eyes
a part of high desert juniper and pinion trees,
walks as beauty stirs backwards and forward in time.

The medicine man in his Hogan’s darkness
sees a woman he doesn’t know through an ancient crystal
handed from medicine man to medicine man
through thousands and thousands of years.
He feels heart-strength, spirit-strength,
sees her facing what is beyond the light’s weaving,
her beauty-song echoing and echoing
into the song of women, the spirit of women
who have forever given birth
and lived through the everyday turmoil of everyday
without flinching, trying to find the courage that is who she is.

Courage weaves a blanket from light out of the woman’s heart
into the texture of red stone.
It rises from the moment when sons were born,
patience was worn away as dreams and hopes were deferred,
as self honesty penetrated weaving consciousness
that tries to protect itself in the interest of shuttling
strength and goodness into the sinews and spirits of children.
Speaking softly, singing beauty, the Navajo woman walks
beneath cliff fire ignited by first light
beneath an impossibly blue sky.

The Navajo woman walks beneath red cliffs
in an impossible blue sky
as first light sets sandstone walls on fire.

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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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Meditation on the Ceremonies of Beginnings

I just signed a contract with Tribal College Press (TCP) for the publication of a book of poetry titled, Meditation on the Ceremonies of Beginnings.  In 1972 I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and found a teaching position at an alternative school, Menominee County Community School, which was one of the first seven school of the Indian controlled schools movement in this country.  It was through my association with Helen Maynor Scheirbeck, the greatest American Indian leader in Indian education during my lifetime, that I found out about the tribal colleges.

When Dr. Verna Fowler asked me to help her found what became College of the Menominee Nation in 1993, I started writing poems about the tribal college movement and its founding.  I have written a substantial number of poems over the decades, celebrating, mourning, living the tribal college dream of creating a new form of higher education driven by American Indian cultures and languages throughout the United States.

Most of the early poems were written during American Indian Higher Education conferences, or later, World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium conferences, in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.  I usually wrote them on scrap paper or napkins and then promptly gave them to whomever I was with at the time.  Luckily for me, Marjane Ambler, then Editor of the Tribal College Journal, prevailed upon person after person to save them and send them to her.  Later on, once a handful of the poems appeared in print, I stated saving them myself.

The poems tell a different kind of history about the tribal college and university and World Indigenous controlled institutions of higher education movements in the United States and worldwide.  I am grateful that Bradley Shreve and Rachael Marchbanks at TCP unexpectedly offered to publish the book.

This has been quite a year!  In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams, my Washington Island historical novel about the black fisherman community that settled on the island before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that led to the Civil War, should be coming out in the near future.  Now Meditation on the Ceremonies of Beginnings.  I’m really going to have to do some marketing work.  I hope some of you might consider buying either one or both works.  I’ve certainly worked hard enough on both of them.

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Tribal College Movement Podcasts

When Ethel and I traveled to New Mexico in February, I worked at Navajo Technical Univerity’s (NTU) campus three days a week while Ethel stayed in our small RV at the Ancient Way Cafe near the El Morro National Monument.  At NTU Christine Reidhead, who is the head of the baccalaureate program in Business, and April Chischilly, an Assistant Professor and long-term NTU employee, got me to agree to do podcasts about the tribal college movement.

I was totally unprepared even though Christine has, for some time, threatened to write my biography.  She refuses to understand that I am not important enough to have a biography written and is absolutely persistent.  When she dragged out and set up this array of equipment she had purchased out of a tribal college salary to do the podcast, I was not only shocked, but felt like I should cooperate.

The introduction that Christine did to the series is more than a little exaggerated.  I am in no way a legend, and though I was around the TCU movement early in its formation, primarily through my association with Helen Scheirbeck, my claim to fame would not be as a pioneer, or founder of the movement, but as someone who was lucky enough in life to walk with the giants that created what I would consider one of the most significant educational movements of the 20th and early 21st century.  I tried to get Christine to change the introduction to the series, but she just laughed at me and said she loved it.

I thought I’d post all of the podcasts here, one at a time.  I am hopeful, even though they are off the cuff and a little rambling, they might have some historical value.  I am, in the end, grateful to Christine and April for tying me down to a project that I would never have contemplated on my own.

Since I know nothing about podcasts, I should note that the first one seems to have been sped up in some way while the second one is not that way at all.  Still, this has been interesting.  The link to Christine’s work is below:

https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/christine-reidhead/episode-1-tribal-college-x19zIm07_jl

Others will follow over the next month or so.

Thomas Davis

 

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