Poetry Shelf reading room: A. Davida Jane’s Every Dark Waning

A Davida Jane, Every Dark Waning, Platypus Press, England (2016, second edition 2018)

Platypus Press author page

I keep trying to build a dam—

I keep coming up rainstorm,

I keep coming up flood.

 

from ‘A Study in Restoration’

So many poetry books escape my attention, and then a trail of lucky connections leads me to a new discovery. I find the online journal The Starling is an excellent lead to poets under 25. This year I discovered the poetry of Ash Davida Jane and invited her to send me a Monday Poem (‘Undergrowth‘), write a response to a much-loved book (Paige Lewis’s excellent collection Space Struck), and muse on a poetry topic (‘An Ecopoetics of the Future’). I managed to get a copy of her debut collection, Every Dark Waning, from Unity Books in Te Whanganui-a-Tara where she works. And it filled me with poetry delight.

I especially loved the first section which pulls in the stars, sky, water, fire, breath and breathing. These poems are both dark edged and light fringed. Maybe the poet is talking from a deep secret place that misses things, that feels pain, is full of feeling. The dark core of the poems is deeply mysterious. It will grip your arm or your lungs and you will stay. There are many selves but the poet is the most present: ‘The poet is the most / honest part of me.’ (from ‘An Attempt at an Explanation’). The poet reappears in ‘Apollo 11’:

The stickiness of the

atmosphere traps in

all the words I never

wrote down, and the poet

in me flinches as I soar

into outer space.

And later, in ‘The House of Pindar’, in this book where poetry is both reticent and confessional:

You burn every house in me

but the poet’s—raze them to

the ground and salt them so

they’ll never grow back.

Only the writer remains.

Why do I love this book so much? Maybe its the sharp edges, the nightmares and the monsters, the things that are held in reserve, the way writing poetry and being a poet is so vital, life-saving perhaps, and the way my attention is directed to things I want to retain, to put away for a cloudy day. This from ‘Upturned’:

did you see me tuck the

view into the back of my

mind, putting it away for a

cloudy day when the stars

aren’t there and i can’t think

of a reason to get out of bed.

today, i needed a reason

to get out of bed, and

the moon was the only thing

that came close.

Ash Davida Jane is a poet and bookseller from Te Whanganui-a-Tara. She has a Master of Arts from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Some of her recent work can be found in Peach Mag, Turbine | Kapohau, Best New Zealand Poems, and Scum. How to Live with Mammals is due to be published by Victoria University Press in 2021.

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