On Georgia Jones-Davis’s NIGHT SCHOOL (Finishing Line Press)

Georgia Jones-Davis recently read at the poetry series I host, and gave one of the best readings we’ve had there in a while.  She was in good form as she read from her new chapbook, Night School.  I bought the book and have been reading it. It’s terrifically somber and somberly terrific. She writes about growing old. She writes about the Russian dog sent into space to die back in the 1950s (well, it wasn’t exactly sent to die; it was sent to do other things; but die it did).  She writes about a boring professor who interrupts his lecture to muse about writing a play as good as Tom Stoppard’s Travesties. She writes a poem called “First Love.” While the title may seem corny, the poem is anything but. This poet has remarkable empathy for those beaten down by life, those unfairly treated, those left out. She doesn’t write about the in-crowd. She doesn’t write about the beautiful and the strong.

From “Who Is This?”:

            I have seen Greece

            and it is far away.

            One day what I call home

 

            will be a blue room

            with a single window,

            a single bed,

 

            and TV table cluttered

            with yellow bottles of white pills.

The style is simple, stark; often it contains surprises:  “The mind curtseys and bows, / then devours itself raw” (“Ruthie, Who Told Artist Wayne Thibaud She Didn’t Like His Pies”); “Did you wave at the train / with its shrill keen, / as it went its own creaking way / into the distance of money?” (“Did You Wave at the Train?”). Reading this book is like listening to soft piano pieces on a late afternoon: there are no crashing cymbals, no howls, no hammer blows. The poems are all different from each other and yet fit together, all clearly belonging to a series: variety within unity—unity with a distinctly feminine voice (and she does mention the moon once too often for my taste).

Night School would be a good starting point for those afraid of poetry or not terribly interested in it. Nineteen years ago someone gave me Sandra Cisneros’s Loose Woman for Christmas.  At that time I was writing (or trying to write) short stories and knew very little about contemporary poetry. The book opened my eyes to a certain school (“school” for want of a better word) of non-academic, accessible poetry that can be enjoyed without special knowledge or background. Night School is another such book. It does not put readers off with obscurities, and yet the poems are rich and just complex enough to warrant rereading and further study. I love one of the last poems in this collection. A little girl is on a road trip with her parents, and here’s how the poem ends:

            The motel vanishes in a pink blur.

            The girl watches how

            the flat world speeds up

            as if the valley

            were on wheels

            and the girl, her mother and father,

            the ones standing still.

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “On Georgia Jones-Davis’s NIGHT SCHOOL (Finishing Line Press)

  1. I haven’t read or heard her for quite some time, I wish you’d review my new one, you’re damn good at it.

    The tone of the book sounds beautful and a little sad.

    • Hi Jack I’d be happy to review your new one. Bring enough copies to sell on the day of your reading Aug 9!

  2. As a fan of both the author and the reviewer, I was mightily pleased to see them brought together for this post. Alex is one of the keenest observers of a poet’s work, and he gives it a respectful, thoughtful reading through both sides of his brain and all four chambers of his heart. Well done!

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