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Breathing Room
Breathing Room

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The Poems of Peter Davison
The Poems of Peter Davison

The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath
The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath

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About the Author Poem Poets on Poetry
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In addition to ten volumes of poetry, Peter Davison has written a memoir, Half Remembered (1973, 1991); a book of literary essays, One of the Dangerous Trades (1991); and a narrative of literary history, The Fading Smile (1994). He has also published literary and travel articles in a wide variety of periodicals. A former book editor, most notably at the Atlantic Monthly Press (1956-1985) and Houghton Mifflin (1985-1998), he is now poetry editor for The Atlantic Monthly. Born in New York City in 1928, son of the poet Edward Davison, he was educated in Colorado, at Harvard, and at Cambridge. He is married to the architect Joan E. Goody. He lives in Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts.


Photo (c) Martin Cornel

"Peter Davison, for years, has pondered with clear insight the perspectives of affection, attachment, loss, and memory, his language spare and his tone classical and deceptively quiet. The poems of this new collection look at the same world with surprise and speak of it with a startled and startling freedom, feeling 'entitled to / the liberty of breathing easy'--a freedom that brings with it the old clarity and eloquence."
--W. S. Merwin

The poems in Peter Davison's exuberant new collection contemplate the paradox of growing old--of having a mind still "a juicy swamp of invention" in a body beginning to falter.

Both intimate and generous, these poems celebrate the cycle of the seasons, of death and rebirth: snapping turtles lay their eggs and new ones hatch; a ruffed grouse drums his spring mating dance. Memory is central: a mother's lost face; a father's voice that "plumbed the marrow of poetry as tenderly / as if a darling had crept into his arms"; a wife's "rueful eyes, cornflower blue." And the poet pays tribute to the literary life--to reading, to the precise moment a word rises to consciousness, to getting over Robert Frost, to the mind of Sylvia Plath.

These are poems that expand time for us and deepen place, whether Davison is taking us on a path along a limestone cliff under canopies of holly and ivy, or is revisiting the instant while recovering from surgery when it becomes clear he is going to heal. "To learn poetry," Davison writes in his foreword, "we need to take poems into our breath and blood, and that requires us to hear them as we read them, to learn to read with all the senses, especially with the ear." Breathing Room gives us a splendid array of poems that we want to read with all our senses.