Lynn Davies latest poetry collection a success

How the Gods Pour Tea mixes pastoral and elegy.

Fredericton-based poet Lynn Davies’ most recent collection undoubtedly lives up to its divine title. Published earlier this year, How the Gods Pour Tea is her third collection following The Bridge that Carries the Road in 1999 and the critically-acclaimed Where Sound Pools in 2005. Mount Allison had the privilege of welcoming this brilliantly cerebral writer for a poetry reading and discussion last month, and ever since her deliverance of a few enticing snippets at the event, I found myself compelled to further investigate her uniquely transcendent style.   

Davies expertly engages with the realms of the mythical and the ordinary, in a way that echoes some fundamental elements of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, but with a reverent subtlety. Although she explores objects and ideas that appear trivial at first glance, her ability to unpack the underlying implications and hidden melancholy of seemingly ordinary circumstances is a skill that Davies has down to a science. She frequently engages with nature and its mystical implications, while simultaneously carrying an elegiac tone that unearths, but respects, the sorrowful beauty that lies just below the surface. Through her analysis of a sub-physical reality lying only slightly out of reach, Davies’ poetry bridges the gap between the perceivable and the imaginative using a profound combination of metaphor, personal inspiration, and a selectively omniscient literary voice.

The collection’s title comes from the poem entitled “Fireworks,” a piece that compares fireworks to a godlike tea party and situates her narrative voice somewhere between nature and humankind. Throughout the collection, Davies also invokes fantastical elements like fairies, dragons, and giant beavers in order to construct an advocacy for environmental preservation; while her poetry often delights in the beauty of the natural world and creatures of fantasy, it is also inflected with a sorrowful elegy for the “disappearing bees and frogs” and the “drowning white bears” that remain ignored and desperate for recognition. 

Overall, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly why I love this collection, because although Davies is interested in exploring the intrinsic beauty of the world around us, she also recognizes that by looking closely at something, one may also unwittingly expose its depressing reality. She is never eager to unearth these realities, instead allowing the reader to learn how to look for things they did not know, or did not want to know, were there. Davies develops a relationship with the reader that is both enlightening and compassionate; she does not command respect, she naturally accumulates it.

 By reading the collection and hearing the serene voice of the writer, one can feel the presence of a poet with sagely knowledge of immeasurable supply and depth. Each poem seems deliberately and enticingly incomplete, inviting the reader to extrapolate beyond what is given and crave a further explanation that is masterfully withheld. Perhaps someday we will learn how exactly it is that the Gods pour tea, but until then, Davies continues to keep me hanging on every carefully chosen word. 

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