Lauren Davis started writing in verse as soon as she could spell.
“I had a thin anthology of bird poetry and a Bible, and that was my start,” she said.
That was in kindergarten. Today, Davis, 32, is a published poet who works and teaches at the Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Books in Port Townsend.
Next month, she is celebrating the release of her first chapbook: “Each Wild Thing’s Consent.”
The collection of raw, intimate and honest poems focus on female disconnect and healing – and subtly reveal the influence of her early writing days.
Originally from Danbury, Connecticut, Davis studied creative writing at the South Carolina Governor’s School, and then went onto the Bennington Writing Seminars for her master’s degree. Writing poetry allows her to stay sane and happy – even if it perhaps is not the most stable of career paths, she said.
“Poetry allows us to communicate in heightened, condensed language, with urgency and hopefully precision,” she said of why she is dedicated to that art form.
Near the end of her graduate studies, Davis decided to traverse 16,000 miles across the United States.
“The goal was to hit the four corners of the U.S.,” she said. “I knew it might be the only window I had in my life to be that free and reckless.”
That journey impacted her life and writings.
“I witnessed the sheer depth of differences in people, communities, in landscapes … My writing began to shift because I was exposing myself to new voices. I became braver on the page.”
ON TO PORT TOWNSEND
A mushroom hunting adventure deep in the woods of Washington incidentally led Davis to Port Townsend.
While on her road trip, Davis stopped in Aberdeen to visit her father. Along with a small group of people, they attended a festival where they went searching for mushrooms.
Deep in the Northwest rainforest, Davis got lost.
“I didn’t appreciate that these forests here can swallow you and not give you back,” she said. “My compass started acting up, unable to settle on North. By the time I stumbled out, most of the group was gone, except the instructors, my father, and the wife of another lost participant.”
Eventually, they found the man who also had become lost, and it was in ensuing conversation the subject of Port Townsend came up. Davis’ father mentioned his daughter was a poet. The man suggested she visit Port Townsend – home to the poetry press Copper Canyon Press.
“I drove up as soon as I could – saw Copper Canyon, the Writers’ Workshoppe, all of the bookstores, the water, the mountains – and I knew I was home,” she said.
In March 2014, Davis began an internship at Copper Canyon Press, which she said gave her hope in the future of poetry.
“I saw so many handwritten letters from readers, thanking the press for putting poetry into the world,” she said. “There is a ton of appreciation there all around, as well as just fearless, earthshaking poetry.”
‘EACH WILD THING’S CONSENT’
“Each Wild Thing’s Consent” was born out of a full-length manuscript Davis began working on in 2015. That manuscript also included poems she had published in years prior.
“While writing the full-length, I saw how these poems told a more focused story,” she said.
That story was about the consequences of disconnecting from the feminine. So she arranged the poems into a chapbook focused on that theme.
In “Each Wild Thing’s Consent,” Davis delves into both the physical and spiritual manifestations of female disconnect. “It begins with the physical manifestations of disconnect and moves into the more universal disconnect from the natural world. It’s about how healing is often such a multifaceted journey, and how necessary it is to not turn away from pain but towards it.”
Influences from her childhood readings – of bird poetry and the Bible – can be detected within the chapbook’s pages. “The fingerprints of Christianity are all over my work,” said Davis, who grew up in a religious household. Her poems reference Madonna, the church, and saints.
“There’s also a persona poem in the voice of a critically endangered bird in the chapbook,” she said.
Because of the deeply personal nature of her poetry, Davis said she was at first reluctant to publish the collection.
“I fought these poems in the beginning because I did not want to be so publicly intimate and honest,” she said. “By the time they found their form, I realized my reluctance had more to do with shame, and the shame was not mine, but that of the culture I had grown up in, where the feminine was feared and diminished.”
The publishing company she sought out – Poetry Wolf Press – gave her the opportunity to donate a percentage of profits from sales to a local nonprofit. Davis chose the Dove House, which offers shelter for women fleeing domestic violence and temporary housing for women and families transitioning into independence.
“The work they do is invaluable and essential.”
“Each Wild Thing’s Consent” will be released in August, and copies will be available at the Writers’ Workshoppe and at poetrywolf.press. An exact date has not yet been announced.
“These poems,” Davis said, “are for all women and for anyone who has ever loved a woman.”
Follow Davis and read her poetry at laurendavispoetry.com. Davis also teaches at the Workshoppe, and has a workshop on confessional poetry Nov. 10, and one on chapbooks Dec. 1.
“I try to let the students rather than the curriculum guide me,” she said of her method. “Every workshop is different because we wake up different each day, with different needs and wants. I try to honor that when I teach.”
For more information, visit writersworkshoppe.com.