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Poetry Moment: Todd Davis and 'Of This World'

Poet Todd Davis

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Of This World” by Todd Davis.

Todd Davis is the author of seven award-winning books of poetry. His poems have appeared on the radio and other media and in noted literary publications including American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Orion. Today’s poem by Davis comes from his recently released collection, Coffin Honey. Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona. For the past 20 years, he has lived near the village of Tipton along the Allegheny Front.

Todd Davis’s poems often arise from the act of looking at the environment. This is not only an aesthetic but an ethical conviction, expressed by Davis as being steeped in the concept of the HomeGround. Davis describes it as “the idea of local knowledge—what we might gain from close observation and attention to the place where we live” as being “crucial” and “essential.”

In “Of This World,” Davis honors his HomeGround, bringing forth the natural world through exquisitely rendered detail. With honed diction, Davis reconstructs not only the human figures inhabiting the poem but those of various animals and plants. Yet the poem is not merely an exercise in how to craft beautiful description.

Throughout, Davis ties what we can know through our senses to the presence of the spiritual, delivering a meditation on time, mortality, and faith. Through sustained looking, the poet remembers what he had momentarily forgotten: to see ‘this world’ as a veil for what lies beyond.


Of This World

A warbler beats its wings at the blueness,
and a brown boy raises an arm in praise.

Somewhere the tongue of God laps water
where the wind crosses the surface.

On the logging road a ruffed grouse drums,
and the bodies of the dead ripen with stories.

The true passage of time is marked
by what birds and trees perceive.

Too often I sought to kiss grief’s lips
when I was young.

Now I’m old, it’s no pleasure to watch
the chickadee peck a winterkilled deer.

A dove flies down from the moon,
and a woman lifts a baby to a breast.

On the mountain a bear eats two berries, imprisoning
the honeyed darkness on the tongue’s underside.

How did I ever forget all the world’s
an upper room?

That was “Of This World” by Todd Davis.
Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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