Back in 1988, Leslie Norris - poet in residence at Brigham Young University - brought in a burly young poet from Wales to help him teach the art of poetry.
John Davies stayed a year, freshening the Utah County air with his big-boned verse and opinions. Now he's back in Wales.And this, his latest collection of verse, overflows with his impressions of his stay in Provo.
Like Russian poets, many Welsh poets are not so much "writers of poetry" as "singers of poetry." Their cadences roll and tumble; words bump and slosh together. When I read John Davies, I think of Vikings in a mead hall, bashing together steins of ale. This is not verse for the fainthearted or the short-of-breath.
This is the stuff epic verse is made of. Davies is a classic bard, singing the songs of his tribe and himself. This, for instance, is the final stanza from "Freedom Boulevard," his ode to a Provo avenue:The drive-in had "Snow White." Desert had the darkness,
even the flagged principalities of car dealerships.
Where our block squared its shoulders, the garage
yawned surprise - isn't the point of travel to keep
going? - then shut up.Throughout the book, poems about the American West ("Utah," "Mormons," "Say Hello to Phoenix," "At Spanish Fork") are set against poems about the poet's native Wales. (Hence the title "Flight Patterns"). Anyone who's visited both areas has been struck - as Davies is - by the similarities in landscape, weather and even the temperament of the citizenry. Davies makes the best of such connections. And there's more empathy in the world because of his travels.
The last book Davies published - "The Visitor's Book" - won a major award in the British Isles. Time will tell if "Flight Patterns" fares as well.
For now, if you want to read and judge it for yourself, the BYU bookstore (1-378-3007) has copies or you can order it from your favorite bookstore through Dufour Editions.