Probably the poem that closes Passiflora, “Girls, She Falcons, Be Thin: Let Us Work Ourselves Asleep Against You,” because the hawk’s rise at the end feels so hopeful. Also, the title comes from a book of poetry someone gave me as a gift when I was in college but that I didn’t read until more than 20 years later. You never know what’s waiting on your bookshelf to be pulled down and read at just the moment when it will mean the most to you.
I love the novel Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I heard her do a reading of the dog fight scene not long before the book came out. I didn’t expect to enjoy it because of the subject, but she rendered it so beautifully I was completely drawn in and entranced. Since then, I read everything she writes.
I’m in the genesis stage with several poems, which means I’m playing with images and ideas to see where they go. Some are ekphrastic, inspired by doll sculptures that I saw in a gallery on a pre-pandemic trip to Canada. I also have a Facebook friend who rescued wild peacocks during a recent snowstorm in Portland, Oregon. (Who knew wild peacocks lived in a Pacific Northwest suburb!) Her photos, videos and posts were so compelling, I’m wondering if there’s a poem in there somewhere.
I can’t write anything without a warm cup of jasmine tea close by. The scent is so wonderful. It’s like drinking a field in bloom.
Folk, country, bluegrass—Cheryl Wheeler, Girls from the North Country, Gillian Welch, The Good Lovelies.
In normal times, I like a little of each, but during the pandemic I’ve found long hikes in forests especially comforting. There’s something reassuring about being among old hardwood trees that have been alive through so much and are still standing.
Jane Campion’s The Piano. When I first saw it, I had two young children and was working full-time in the hospital field, so things were crazy busy, and I didn’t have much of a creative life. But Ada fighting for the piano and her voice, this beautiful film’s depiction of how a woman’s wildness and creativity cannot be suppressed, ultimately led me back to writing and making art. And every time I watch it, I see something new and feel inspired all over again.
A ballerina. I loved the costumes and dance.
I write mostly in the morning. Poems usually grow out of an image, phrase, or snippet of conversation I was part of or overheard that stays with me in a nagging way. I’ll then cast around, exploring various associations that pop up as I read other poets’ work or research related places or topics. Then it’s a lot of staring at the blank page, writing, deleting, and getting reactions from trusted readers until the poem takes shape.
I just started one this year that’s available on my website. I’ve been reading other writers, mostly poets, who have books coming out this year and sharing what I enjoyed about their work. It’s a way to help get poetry voices out there at a time when the pandemic prevents the in-person readings poets usually depend upon.
Mostly from my day-to-day life, people that I meet, conversations that I have with others or overhear. I also find doing collage very generative, mixing together seemingly different images in a cohesive way.
I write for those moments when you become so absorbed in what you are working on that time falls away and suddenly you look up and realize four or five hours have passed.
The blank page is always a bit frightening. Will the muse choose to show up or not? The superstitious part of me keeps some crystals close by—carnelian, tiger’s eye, citrine, rose quartz—that I hope will encourage her to come.
I’m more disciplined about keeping a set time each day to write. And I don’t panic when magic doesn’t happen right away. It’ll come at its own pace and I just need to make sure I’m there ready for it when it does.
Passiflora is a collection of poems about our day-to-day struggles with loss, raising children, relationships, aging and creating art, and how the nature that surrounds us informs how we view these challenges and sometimes serves as a source of solace.
Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.