Donna Lee Davis
bright on the table
flaming between us,
white font of wax tears.
I remember your hand
seeking mine on the table;
a spoon tracing lives
on the cloth, charting years.
Strange how a roomful of
memories can dwindle:
two embers remain from
Even now, our design dust
of dream, past redeeming,
I remember the love:
I remember the light.
-"I Remember a Candle" by Donna Lee Davis
Donna Lee Davis turned to peer into my eyes, our interview dwindling to an end. "I have a whole list of advice I'd give to aspiring authors," she began, slowly unfolding her hands that had laid clasped across the table before reaching into a stack of note cards. "Ah, yes," she continued once the correct note card had been found. "An aspiring author must exercise writing, keep a journal to jot down important thoughts the moment they strike, revise, revise, revise, and...oh yes, an aspiring author must write to please oneself while reaching others."
An aspiring author must write to please oneself while reaching others. Pretty sound advice if you ask me. Advice any author, any creative artist for that matter, would do well to adhere to. The same advice Donna Lee Davis used to guide herself before self-publishing her book of poems, Sheer Poetry, in 1981.
Although she has been compared to Emily Dickinson for her simplicity of verse and meaning, Davis' life has been far different from the literary recluse. Born on May 19, 1945, the newly turned sixty-year-old and Hartwood resident has done much more than pen beautiful lines that hang sweetly from the tongue; she has been secretary to a NAVY chaplain, paved her way as the head court reporter at Quantico, represented the Council of Catholic Women as both officer and member, made a variety of Christmas ornaments that are being sold via the internet*, and has been featured in Who's Who Of American Women for the years 2004-2005.
Yet, despite all her other accomplishments, Sheer Poetry represents an accomplishment that she has dreamed of all her life. In fact, Davis spoke fondly of first finding love in writing and creating poetry when she was just seven-years-old. While her anthology consists mainly of poems written in adulthood as she learned about both the bitter and the sweet in life, two poems included in Sheer Poetry have been saved since first being penned at the age of fourteen. And since then, her love for poetry has only grown fonder. Since retiring after spending thirty-three years working at Quantico, Davis has been writing more poems, her first love, in the hope of publishing another anthology. But she hasn't stopped there. Davis has also recently added a number of short stories to her name, one of them, "Something Else Entirely," becoming a finalist in an online contest in honor of William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying).** In addition, this hard-working and passionate writer has twenty-two chapters of a novel under her belt. She described the novel as being centered around the life of a NAVY chaplain, which is loosely based on the Catholic priest who befriended her and initiated her into Roman Catholicism while being secretary in Quantico. She said she has yet to find any novel that has a chaplain as the hero, and she hopes she can do her dear friend and mentor, Cardinal O'Connor, now deceased, as much justice as he did for her. Without the faith she found while working with her beloved NAVY chaplain, Davis wouldn't be able to tell me, with sudden abashed shyness, that prayer is as key to her writing as setting goals for herself.
If you ask me, Ms. Davis will accomplish far more than simply giving her friend the justice he deserves. Donna Lee Davis has the type of drive that can only come from a life of court reporting, the dedication from her ability to self-publish, and a talent that reflects the esteemed Robert Frost in the way he has captivated audiences through the painting of words. I'm sure we'll see more from Davis as she polishes the other writing projects she has in the works, and I hope that others may be as inspired and moved by the sweetness of her poetry as I have been. As Donna Lee Davis says in her own words in the prelude of Sheer Poetry, "If each reader is touched-amused-entertained-by just one poem, I shall have succeeded."
* To view Donna Lee Davis' Christmas crafts and ornaments, please visit http://www.paradisetree.org/
** "Something Else Entirely" by Donna Lee Davis is listed as a finalist on http://www.wordsandmusic.org/