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Unsung Masters Series Volume 6
Edited by Martha Collins, Kevin Prufer & Martin Rock
I have admired Catherine Davis’s exquisitely sculpted lyrics for over forty years. But it has been futile to recommend her work to others because it has been nearly impossible for anyone to find the poems, most of which were never published in book form. What a gift to have this lost poet restored to us.
Catherine Breese Davis fills an important but unsung niche in the tradition of women’s poetry in the U.S.—and now unsung no more. The editors of this book have given us a brilliant selection from Davis’s poems, combined with illuminating writings about her work and life. This volume is a true labor of love, a priceless introduction to a lucid, poignant, and unflinching poet.
“Go, little book,” Catherine Breese Davis intones, echoing the venerable tradition of the envoi as she announces herself to the world. But the poetry of Davis renders the poetry of ages past with singular immediacy, whether wandering dark woods with Dante, warbling with Wyatt, dwelling in indolence with Keats, invoking the winged madness of Baudelaire, or chanting with Herrick of the burnished shores of poetry. This is a poet who knows “how to hold in mind / a place—a house or river scene— / That keeps an earlier time intact.” That earlier time is woven of houses and rivers but also the great voices of the past who serve not as masters but as contemporaries, interlocutors, and companions. Davis is a poet seeking answers anywhere they arise—in tragedies ancient (the Eumenides) or contemporary (the assassination of MLK). “How does it help to see / how sick we are / Or to find out where we erred?” wonders Davis. These unsung songs are living puzzles that “master time.”