At our granddaughter Sophia's wedding, Ethel wrote one poem for the wedding that she read out loud during the ceremony. A friend of our daughter Mary read another poem by Ethel that was written 55 years ago during our courtship. Then, at the reception I sat down and wrote a poem commemorating the event as the mariachi band played and people people danced as sunlight streamed out of the clouds for the first time all day. The poem Ethel read: Hope Dear Grandmother, today your great, great granddaughter is getting married to a fine, young man, and they promise their love is greater than their parents’ love and their grandparents’ love. They promise they will be happier than their parents were or their grandparents. And they promise their children will be loved more than all the ancestors put together. Dear Grandmother, this is their promise, and this is our hope. The poem from 55 years ago: How Could I Know? It looks to me as though you’ve been around, perhaps, since time began— and I have lived at least as long. Oh? Only that much time? I’m sure there was no life before for you or me. How could I know your face so well? As well as some old rock I’ve seen hang, clinging to a mountain wall, and I know what wave of brightness, or of darkness, to expect there waiting for me. You step and make some rounded move. I know beforehand which way to go. How could I know? Unless. . . You’ve been around, perhaps, since time began. I know I’ve lived at least as long. The poem I wrote: At My Granddaughter’s Wedding First the bald eagle above the bay, water dancing light on lines of waves, then cranes in the greening field, Babies and parents communicating with legs, moving necks, and wings in the sun, and then the rumor of storms brewing black clouds in the north, stirring with big winds. But then, after a night of worry, the ceremony was to be outside, the wedding day came, cloudy, a fifty percent chance of rain. But then the rain didn’t come. Wedding roses lined paths to the small wooden church. Then, the words as ancient as human spirits, were spoken by the bride and groom, and then the sun came out as the mariachi celebration began, as clouds thinned, and my granddaughter and her love danced as music rose into an evening sky— and love was everywhere. Everywhere.
Tag Archives: Thomas Davis
Publisher: Four Windows Press, 231 N Hudson Ave., Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Number of pages: 370
Price: 20.95 Retail
Available: Through bookstores and online venues worldwide, including https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0999007777?pf_rd_r=QNSVAP9MMMBZFHENZZEP&pf_rd_p=9d9090dd-8b99-4ac3-b4a9-90a1db2ef53b or https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/no-more-can-fit-into-the-evening-thomas-davis/1138335652?ean=9780999007778
Web site: www.fourwindowspress1.com
Four Windows Press has released a major anthology of English-speaking poets, No More Can Fit Into the Evening, A Diversity of Voices. The volume contains a healthy sampling of work from 39 poets from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.
In the “Introduction” to the volume, the Editors, Thomas Davis and Standing Feather, both poets, say that “an early decision was made to invite poets either they knew about” from their years participating in multiple poetic communities “to submit ‘the ten best poems they had ever written.’” From the hundreds of poems submitted over 250 poems were included in the final publication.
Among the notable poets in the volume include Terence Winch, winner of the American Book and other awards; John Looker, an important British poet; Kimberly Blaeser, an Anishinabe poet with an international reputation who is a former State of Wisconsin Poet Laureate; Michael Kriesel, former President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and James Janko, winner of the AWP Novel of the Year and other awards.
According to Davis and Feather, what they are hoping “as they bring this project to press is that readers might find themselves on a mesa top where grandmother junipers spread their branches out beneath a full moon, remembering poems that stuck in their spirit after this volume has been read. We are hoping they might have that experience in Door County, Wisconsin where Lake Michigan is tossing wild, white capped waves at the dark dolomite escarpment that runs through Door Peninsula, or maybe in the timeless moment when they are communing with Taliesin, the ancient Celtic bard, in a time before time as he chants beauty and the world’s beauty into the deep starlight of a Celtic night.”
In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams has just been awarded the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award for 2019. The award has been around since 1944 and is awarded by the Wisconsin Council of Writers. There have been a handful of years where the Council did not believe an award was warranted.
My publisher, All Things That Matter Press, suggested that I ask my friends and followers to repost this news. I am certainly excited about having this kind of validation for my writing and particularly for this novel. Bennison Books published The Weirding Storm, my epic poem about dragons, kickstarting a writing career that I had largely put aside due to my work with the tribal colleges and universities. I feel a great debt of gratitude to both Bennison Books and All Things That Matter Press for publishing my books. At this point in time I have four novels, one non-fiction book, and two epic poems in print.
In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams is about a black fisher community that settled in the remote wilderness off the coast of the Door Peninsula on Washington Island in the 1850s. Primarily about Joshua Simpson, who is fourteen years old at the start of the novel, it tells the story of an escape from slavery on a Missouri plantation and then the founding of a community on the shores of Death’s Door, a passage between the body of Lake Michigan and the tip of the Door Peninsula.
Under the leadership of the charismatic black Preacher, Tom Bennett, and the help of the Underground Railroad, Joshua, his family, and the other escaped slaves find their dream of New Jerusalem on the island, and then find that discovering paradise is only the first part of their journey.
This, for me, is a great, great day, and I certainly want to thank the Wisconsin Council of Writers. They have made my year!
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.
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,
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!
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.
My review of Thomas Peacock’s first novel, Beginnings: The Homeward Journey of Donovan Manypenny, is in the latest issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas. Peacock is one of the most important writers and thinkers about American Indian education in the country, and his wonderful novel, published by Holy Cow! Press (one of my favorite publishers), has “the resonance of truth telling” in its pages. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the deepness of native culture and how that deepness draws people into and back to the place where the universe began.
I am also pleased to be published in Wisconsin People & Ideas, the most important publication containing the best of Wisconsin culture and thought in the state. The publication of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters explores Wisconsin’s intellectual and natural environment with a substance that helps define the state’s true spirit.
My daughter, Sonja Bingen, tried to get the Academy to name me a Fellow, but that didn’t happen, so this publication made me especially feel good. The magazine and the Academy is one of the best things about Wisconsin.
I wrote a novel for young adults, 9-14 and up, a long time ago. It was completely sold out, so Four Windows Press is re-releasing it. I am hoping some of the followers of this blog might consider purchasing it in amazon or at their favorite local bookstore.
Salt Bear is a story taken from the mythology of the American west. It is filled with mythological animals such as salt bear, jackalopes, cactus bucks, blind ravens, a snow owl, bears, and an evil mountain lion. At a recent WFOP meeting I was informed by a young attendee that it was one of his very favorite books ever. I’ve had quite a few young people tell me that since its first release.
The wild tale begins:
Salt Bear did not like the idea. Not one little bit.
Buddy, a jackalope, one of Salt Bear’s best friends, had started calling him George.
“Salt Bear’s a kind of bear,” Buddy had explained when he first started using George. “It’s not a name.”
“But why George?” Salt Bear had asked. “That doesn’t fit a salt bear. Why not Salty?” He brightened up. “That could be a good name for a salt bear.”
Buddy had scratched behind his right pronghorn just above his big, floppy ear. He looked like a jackrabbit. His brownish-pink nose was set off by a handsome set of whiskers, and he had powerful hind legs. Two slender black horns stuck out of his head above his ears.
“Salty’s a name for a bird,” he had said scornfully. “Besides, I would have liked to have been called George. Not Buddy.”
Salt Bear had shaken his gleaming white fur, and then blinked tan eyes in bewilderment. For a bear he was small, although he was full grown. He stood a little over three feet high. . .
I’m pretty sure you might remember the excitement you had reading The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, or the Redwall books. I certainly had an enormous amount of fun writing the tale down.
a villanelle by Thomas Davis
“Beside the cottonwood,” I start to say.
She looks at me. Words fade out of my head.
What now? I think. I focus on the way
She’s standing by the massive tree, the gray
Streaked through her hair a halo that has wed
Her essence to the glinting interplay
Of light and shadow dancing leaves that sway
And flutter in a breeze that seems to tread
Out from the tree into the fields of day.
The sudden silence morphs into dismay,
Confusion, even, maybe, just a hint of dread.
What if, inside a moment, disarray
Has somehow found our lives and cutaway
The passion in our hearts that’s always led
To moments that are glorious and fey.
But then she smiles. The tree’s roots dig through clay
And living sustenance flows to the spread
Of branches reaching to the sky, the play
Of light her spirit as my spirit’s quay.
A new bookstore has opened on Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay! We used to have two bookstores, but they have closed. Now Margaret Magle has opened a new bookstore on Third Avenue downtown. She is, right now, featuring books by Ethel Mortenson and Thomas Davis. We are hoping both tourists and local folks visit the store at 41 N. Third Avenue since we are hoping Margaret succeeds in her new endeavor.