Table of Elements
The Rail of Silence—Mountains
A Vast Nest—Animals
Elementals—Trees and More
Speak the Lake—Bodies of Water
Interlogos sections—Love Poems
Dancing Mockingbird, a book of sixty poems, was released by Kelsay Books in February 2022.
These lyrical poems offer visions of intimate, and even sometimes transcendental, encounters with the natural world, in the “spoken cadences of an authentic voice,” as the writer John Elder has put it. Embedded between these sections are love poems that reflect the same sensory richness. These poems stand alongside the work of Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, or the short fiction of Barry Lopez as loving meditations on the human romance between people and place.
Eight of the poems have been published in various journals. You can read some of them here.
“Sincere and intense . . . a very beautiful language.”—5-Star review by Emily-Jane Hill Orford, for Readers Favorite. Click here to read the review below. Click the link for the Readers Favorite site.
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Benjamin Schmitt—At the Inkwell
Light and distance, height and juxtapose/ of majesty and intimacy, the plush of russet,/
rose, and gold under blue, the off-white rock/ enfolding lakes in the sun’s radiant regard.
Like so many, I spent much of the pandemic indoors. As a rather introverted writer, I must admit that this wasn’t difficult for me. In fact, after a few weeks it became all too easy to remain at home surrounded by the screens of both work and leisure. Eventually I came to miss not only the social connections I had been neglecting, but also my connection to nature. I am fortunate enough to live in a city filled with grand parks and beaches and also surrounded by some of the most majestic terrain in North America, so for the last year I have made a concerted effort to nurture this connection to the natural world. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed so many of the poems in Dancing Mockingbird by Steven Dale Davison, a poet completely immersed in nature.
One of the first things that struck me about the book was the sheer enormity of the landscapes. Lines like, “a storm slides down the mountain to the water,/ whips the waves, then moves on,/ unveiling a westering sun” are truly epic in scale. In this way, Davison reveals himself to be an American poet in the vein of Walt Whitman, whom he acknowledges in this collection. Like Whitman, the continent opens itself up to his pen, “bayous, cut-off oxbows seeping and breeding frogs…the great rivers of the country pay their tribute,/ and ask only passage to the sea.” There is a certain feeling one gets upon looking out from a great vista and Davison captures it well.
From such heights, the poet perceives the unity and wholeness of all nature. The moon, a bird, a mountain, a human watching; for Davison all are unified. There is a certain spirituality to lines like, “earth spins her outsweep tilt to winter/ on v’s of geese. The eyelids of maples/ flutter on the edge of sleep.” This is not dogmatic religious instruction but rather a heightened awareness of our place in the universe. As a reader, I couldn’t help but come away with both a greater sense of purpose and a grave sense of humility.
One of the most important elements in a book of poems is the author’s voice. Is the poet able to write in a way that is unique and interesting enough to hold one’s attention for a book-length work? Davison possesses a fun and original voice that kept me frequently engaged while reading Dancing Mockingbird. “Night does not fall—it glides/ in incremental frequencies/ across the turning earth,” he writes. Later, he shares more insights, “sand holds the laws of its movement/ in the hands of others…leisurely geometries/ pace from crest to crest.” He also uses rhyme, alliteration, and other poetic tools to bring his natural settings to life. There were a few poems in which this voice retreated that didn’t quite work for me. But the poet was at his best when he let his passion for the grandiosity of our universe overwhelm him.
It is the simple scenes that reveal our larger connection to the natural world that make Dancing Mockingbird a worthwhile read. “Suddenly, a windless stillness fell,/ and, almost close enough to touch,/ a herd of white-tailed deer appeared.” These lines reminded me of a week spent in the Sawtooth National Forest near Stanley, Idaho about twenty years ago. On two separate occasions that week I too encountered deer close enough to touch. At the time, it felt downright miraculous. These are the miracles and wonders of the natural world that Davison implores us to explore in Dancing Mockingbird. I intend to heed his call.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford, 5 Stars—Readers Favorite
Nature is very spiritual – musically so. The birds, the trees, the rivers and the sand, they all sing and dance to a special tune of life. Steven Dale Davison reflects on the spiritualism of all that nature has to offer in his collection of poems, Dancing Mockingbird. His words have a deeper meaning ensconced in a rubric that measures his sense of place in a world far more beautiful than anyone can imagine. The poet’s world is words, spiritual words that define the essence of place, “a myriad manifestation/ of earth and air,/ water and sun,/ all dancing in the One.” Where there’s dancing, there’s music and the natural world is full of music, just as the poet is full of words, spiritual words, expressive words, words that define and place the poet and the reader in one sublimely unique place.
Steven Dale Davison’s poetry collection, Dancing Mockingbird, explores one poet’s perspective of the world around him. His words are sincere and intense, as he lures the reader into a symphony of sounds, sights, visions and so much more. The poet shares his musings in a voice that is both lyrical and sensitive. His poems are mostly free verse, but his use of metaphors is classic: “Thick fog denses a pirouette in freeze-time./ Sound and distance founder, lost in mist and soft, dark air.” He’s writing sound poems, poetry that has its own sound-induced lyricism, both intimate and reflective. The poet has a powerful command of language, a very beautiful language. This collection is something to be savored many times over, and each time a new thought will reconnect the reader to the poet and the words on the page. Very intense and thought-provoking.