Leigh Davis (1955-2009)
Leigh Davis was awarded the National Book Awards Best New Zealand First Book of Poetry for Willy’s Gazette in 1983. He followed this with a feast of literary innovation in print, on line and in physical spaces (often in conjunction with artist Stephen Bambury). During his final months when he was undergoing treatment for a brain tumour, he completed work on Stunning Debut of the Repairing of a Life. This was posthumously awarded The Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry.
From my Herald review: As you travel through the visual stutterings and the hiccupping sounds of the book, you fall upon lines that you just want to hold to the light and marvel at. Davis shows us what poetry might be: ‘Poetry is writing with space in it’ or ‘just tolerant’ or ‘bright beautiful surfaces’. He also shows us what he wants: ‘warmth,’ ‘speed,’ ‘mystery’, ‘love.’ Go to this link.
Leigh Davis’s final work (aided by artist Stephen Bambury) is an extraordinary, experimental publication – the most ambitious seen here in terms of scale and lavish production. The two books and DVD take the form of a play in five acts and a visual blueprint for its installation. The first book is a beautiful, hardcover, linen-bound object entitled NAMELESS. Various characters (actors) make an appearance: Duccio’s Madonna, George Wilder, Ludwig Wittgenstein). You enter a world of frailty, uncertainty, that is made more poignant not by the ‘phenomenon of thinking’ nor by the meaning that floats at one’s fingertips nor the quivering time (past and future) but by the things and actions that compound. Thus the broken cars or the soap that needs to be passed. There is, in this theatrical gathering, an insistent voice, a voice whispering in your ear, guiding you and here and there, on sailboat, to a corner to eavesdrop, to rivers and to Union Square. Beyond the fragility, though there is essential poetry, for these words are lush yet economical, mysterious yet clear. The poem (long but measured) is like a net, a beautifully woven silk net that catches and snags fleeting corners of the world (present, remembered, invented, adored).
The second book is entitled REDUX and is a visual interpretation that lays down a map for an installation of a performance of NAMELESS.
Michael Hurst and Jennifer Ward-Lealand read scenes on the DVD which also includes also a virtual animation of the installed work.
At this boxed set’s heart – the contagious joy of language.
Nameless/ Redux Leigh Davis Jack Books $120