All you culture-vultures out there, one of our favorite contemporary poets, Brad Davis, has a new collection out this month. Davis is that rare artist who can deal with religious themes without concealing his humanity or feeling the need to protect his Lord. If you’ve enjoyed the Scott Cairns poems we’ve posted, you’ll love Brad’s. Indeed, the integration on display here is something to behold; no crevice of human feeling or experience goes unexplored – and while the language is beautiful, it’s also unassuming and funny (and, thankfully, never pious), which is hard to do, especially when you’re addressing themes as serious as the ones Davis is, e.g. death, faith, doubt, beauty, alienation, love, sex, etc. In other words, his work is very much in line with the psalms from which he’s drawing inspiration. That is, if King David had a sense of humor… which he must have had?! But this is the sort of accessibility (and wisdom) that it takes years to hone, even when you have “the gift,” as Davis clearly does. Opening King David (Wipf & Stock, 2011; Antrim House, 2005-2008) is the title of his new volume, and I couldn’t think of better summer reading. Even if you’re not a “poetry person,” take a chance – this is as close as we’re going to get to an Mbird laureate. His notes explain the project:
On the First Sunday in Advent 2002, this project began: to make a slow, contemplative read (lectio divina) through the Bible’s Book of Psalms, one psalm a week, and by the week’s end to draft a poem bearing an impression, however subtle, of the biblical text, with influence from my surroundings – local to cosmological – and from whatever may have been of personal importance that week – lived or invented.
A couple of my favorites (this week):
The Lord surrounds his people
This is bullshit:
Those who trust in Him
cannot be shaken.
Hang confidence here,
and when the bough
will not begin
to describe the anguish
of the faithful.
“Do not think disaster
cannot touch you” –
what I say to myself
on the good days.
Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns – whether they be
green or dry – the wicked will be swept away. Psalm 58:9
THE WAY IT IS
For good or ill, I am among the fortunate, the happy.
Who can refute it? I live on a five-hundred acre estate
kept by a crew I neither have to pay nor oversee.
I have never, involuntarily, gone hungry
or had to pawn rags to shelter my family. Never
have I been pushed to the point of longing
to bathe my feet in the blood of the wicked, who
by force impose their bent will upon the world.
What I think I know is that everything happens all at once –
privation, birthing stars, regime changes –
and some of it is not good, and how much is not good
is relative to the calculator’s point of view.
Certainly what appears to be true is how
what is not good never fails to inspire dangerous humor,
sweet dreams among co-conspirators, bitter lyrics
in absolutely beautiful songs – the kind of songs I like best –
songs deeply felt and aimed at making sensible
to a numbed, happy public – folk like me – the urgencies
of the discontented. And it is true, or I am
sufficiently educated to know how to say it, that
despite my happiness, I, too, cannot wait for the day
when earth steps free of her long bondage to decay
and I find myself, as though I were just
waking up, in a new body equipped with stable knees,
an unencumbered will, and desire like wisdom from above.