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Hello, friends! I’m happy to welcome Kathy Davis to the blog today to celebrate the release of her poetry collection, Passiflora. Kathy is here today to share a poem from the collection and its inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!


Snapped

Her daughters shocked

to a splay-footed

standstill,

hair bows askew,

ears cocked as if wary

of what’s happening

behind them. 1914

and the family fruitcake

recipe says:

blanche the almonds,

shell pecans,

crystallize the cherries,

then call a man

to stir the heavy batter.

But they are too full

of four- and six-year-old

giggles and squirms

to pose pretty and smile

for their mama

who has finally snapped,

Turn around

and face the bushes!

and is taking a picture

of the backs

of their new white

summer Sunday dresses,

of the rows of tiny bone

buttons scavenged

from an old blouse,

the flounces crocheted

by kerosene light,

the cropped sleeves

trimmed with lace bartered

from the pack-peddler

for a skillet supper

and a spare bed. No

running water, electricity,

phones or paved roads; no

self-timer to unchain her

from the tripod; no

click and share,

but one snapshot

and generations of us

see: This is a woman

who could wield a needle.


“Snapped” is about a photograph I found among my mother’s things after she died. I had no idea who the two little girls were, why they were standing with their backs to the camera, or who took the picture. It was a puzzle until I came across a handwritten reminiscence about family by my great-aunt Agnes, as well as a copy of an article about I. George the pack peddler that she wrote when she was 92 for a local magazine.

Agnes is the older girl in the picture and my grandmother, Etta, is the younger one. The photograph was taken by my great-grandmother who apparently tended to dress these two alike. I loved the story of her determination to at least capture a record of her handiwork if she couldn’t, at that moment, get a good picture of two of her youngest girls. She was a schoolteacher and at 27 considered an “old maid” when she married my great-grandfather. He was a 44-year-old farmer and widower with only one arm and six children. They had five more children together. Living in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century meant the pack peddler and repurposing what was already had on hand were Great-Grandma Emma’s main sources for sewing supplies. Given all she had on her plate raising eleven children, I was so inspired when I learned she was such an accomplished seamstress and took pride in it.

The family fruitcake recipe with the direction to ask a man to stir the heavy batter also was something I found among my mother’s papers. It came from a different family member who was of the same generation as my great-grandmother and offered a good example of how women were viewed at the time, despite their daily accomplishments.

Finding out the story behind the photograph reinforced that I stand on the shoulders of a long line of determined and resourceful women. Agnes put herself through college and later farmed alongside her husband. My grandma Etta became a nurse in the 1920s over her older brothers’ objection that “only bad girls went to nursing school.” (Her father settled the matter in her favor saying he “knew as many bad girls who were teachers as nurses” and that you could be what you were regardless of what you did.) My mother and her sister also became nurses. All provide inspiration and, for me, that legacy is what “Snapped” celebrates.


About Passiflora

Advance Praise:

“In this gorgeous debut collection, Kathy Davis announces, ‘I’ve no illusions of control’—yet even as this book celebrates profusion, it manifests aesthetic control, unsentimental intelligence, and tightly leashed feeling. In fields of fleabane and wiregrass, women are taught to suppress their own wildness but burst out anyway in appetite and laughter. Cancer grows inside, jasmine tangles outside, yet this ecopoetic book cultivates restoration and consolation. Reading it is to imagine healing.” —Lesley Wheeler, author of The State She’s In

“Kathy Davis’ poems may begin in the domestic, but almost invariably end in a place that is startling, unfamiliar, and quietly estranging. And, thanks to the exactitude of her style, these transformations never seem less than inevitable. Hers is a voice of unobtrusive confidence, whether she is fashioning wry character studies or stern self-reckonings. These are haunting, bittersweet, and slyly consoling poems. Passiflora is a debut collection of the very first order.” —David Wojahn, author of for the scribe, World Tree and Interrogation Palace

“Intelligence, in its best meanings. The radiant presence of an informed and informing sensibility. An authentic voice with plenty of attitude. We hunger for these characteristics in our engagements with all the arts and hope for nothing less in what we’re willing to call poetry. In Passiflora we encounter the attentive eye of a passionate naturalist in poems that bring light and color—along with ironies and pain—into realizations of human lives reflected and rooted in the eruptions of wild life: the seeds, plants, animals, and landscapes that are the foundations of survival and the potent wellsprings of wisdom and joy. Kathy Davis weaves the most sophisticated, intimate variety of braided poem, as in the consummately crafted ‘For My Son’s Birth Mother,’ an invitation to the vivid observations of a woman walking through a San Diego art exhibit in a poem that subtly yet poignantly reveals the inescapable undercurrent in her thoughts—the intensities of caring for an adopted child. Davis brings to her revelations a kind of taste and judgment that is not about regulation or limitation, but about courage and respect. In these devotional poems, the erotics of the human body are intertwined with the perfumes of flowers and healing herbs in a collection whose every page brings an awakening, an expansion of experience, acutely satisfying a yearning of which we had been unaware.” —Gregory Donovan, author of Torn from the Sun and Founding Editor, Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.

Available at Cider Press Review and Amazon


About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer from Richmond, VA. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. Davis holds a BA and MBA from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction.


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

Thank you, Kathy, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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