Davis kicks off poetry month with reading from ‘Gigs’
March 31, 2011 · 4:28 PM
John Davis blames his obsession with poetry on bad knees. He used to spend every spare moment running marathons, but when his knees gave out, it left a huge void in his calendar.
Losing his teaching job because of budget cuts didn’t help either.
He decided to take a poetry class so that, next teaching job, he’d have more to offer his creative writing students. He took a class at the University of Washington with Beth Bentley and “became hooked.”
“Turns out it takes longer to write a poem than to run a marathon,” he said just a few days after his new book of poems “Gigs,” was released by Sol Books. Davis’ collection of work-related poems won out over 300 submissions to be published.
A chapbook by Davis, “The Reservist,” was printed in 2005 by Pudding House Press. He has published more than 300 poems in the 30 years since putting up his running shoes.
“It’s an obsession. Poetry is a true art. There’s no money in it,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder do you choose poetry or does it choose you?”
The money has come from other work, namely a stint in a garage door factory and, for 32 years, teaching English.
The factory work factors into his poetry.
To fight the job’s tediousness, Davis would memorize poems that he had scribbled on pieces of paper and stuffed in his pockets before going to work.
“Not everyone wants to discuss Dante,” he said of his coworkers. “I was an odd duck.”
Influenced by Philip Levine’s working class poetry, Davis squeezed the sensory details from the factory work for such poems as “How to Fire a Forklift Driver” and “Day One.” He draws raw material from his other “gigs,” namely playing guitar for the band “Never Been to Utah,” which he’s played in for 25 years. Not much money in that, either.
Davis doesn’t care.
He’s got a rhythm going: Teaching at North Kitsap High School; a short commute back to Bainbridge where he shares a home with wife Kathleen and kids Kayla and Jordan; working out; playing music; and writing poetry.
The poetry, though not a gig, per se, gets his attention.
“I write whenever I can. Often that’s at night, when I can’t sleep,” he said. Often he writes two or three poems a week.
Sometimes they come easily, he said. “I write a poem fairly quickly, then I like to tinker afterwards. Sometimes a poem takes a couple of years to look better.”
The tinkering gets done with a little help from his friends. He was part of a writing group for years and shares fresh works with poet Kelli Russell Agodon a couple of times a week. He spent a number of years attending islander Bob McAllister’s workshops and credits McAllister and poet Nancy Rekow for fanning the flames of the local poetry community.
Davis will launch Bainbridge Island’s Poetry Month with a reading from “Gigs” at 3 p.m. April 3 at Eagle Harbor Book Co.
For more information, and to read an interview with Davis, visit www.solbooks.com/blog.
Bainbridge Island poetry month events:
John Davis kicks off Poetry Month with a reading from his new book of poetry, “Gigs,” at a reading at 3 p.m. April 3 at Eagle Harbor Book Company. www.eagleharborbooks.com.
Bob McAllister reads: Bainbridge icon and Island Treasure Bob McAllister will read from “Even in the Wind, Even in the Dark” at 7:30 p.m. April 7 at Eagle Harbor Book Co. www.eagleharborbooks.com.
SHARE A FAVORITE POEM: Bring a favorite poem to read, or listen as seniors and Boys & Girls Club members read theirs from 3:30-5:15 p.m. April 13 at the BI Senior Center. Free. Info: 842-1616.
Poetry Corners: A poetry reading is at 7 p.m. April 16 at Flowering Around Cafe. The poems are on view in storefronts throughout downtown. www.artshum.org.
HOWL: The Bainbridge Public Library presents a free screening of “Howl” about the work of beat poet Allen Ginsberg and starring Academy Award nominee James Franco, at 5 p.m. April 17 at the Lynwood Theatre. www.krl.org.
Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable: Poet Susan Rich presents “Ecstatic Poetry: Non-Religious Poems Lifting Us Beyond the Everyday,” at 7 p.m. April 19 at the Library. www.fieldsend.org.
From Bad to Verse: Eagle Harbor Book Co. presents the traditional finale to Poetry Month, Doggerel Day, at 7:30 p.m. April 28, when poets from the annual Limerick Contest gather to read. www.eagleharborbooks.com.
“Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant”: Poet Jack Prelutsky entertains at 4 p.m. April 23 at Bainbridge Performing Arts. Tickets, $10. www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org.
For more information about poetry month, visit www. artshum.org.