Posts Tagged ‘Nicelle Davis’

Circe by Nicelle Davis (buy via

Circe, at 86 pages, is comprised of seven sections (Books). Book I – a personal, stylized prose poem introduction to and explanation of the author’s intimacy with The Odyssey, from which her collection draws its allusions; the poem below; and an illustration – stealthily, efficiently, and effectively makes Circe a re-imagining and authorial personalization of the witch from Homer’s epic tale as forsaken lover, outcast, and woman both burdened and brightened by unrelenting memories as well as the solitude and time so detrimental to sanity and reflection.

Circe after Odysseus Leaves
What used to be a box of love letters
is now a book of spells. I read them.

They make me. Remake me. What
was will begin again. Page one. Again.

As the sum of its parts, Book I also serves as an innovative restructuring of the invocation of the muse. Instead of addressing a godly thing, Davis as Circe calls out to something entirely more human, memories of love and all its thorns, in order to tell a personal tale which recounts the effects of an intense affair in all its mad glory. The last sentence in the first stanza of the above poem, “I read them,” is thoughtfully and perfectly placed for its present/past tense ambiguity and echoes in the following two phrases as if spelling it all out: “They make me. Remake me.” The last few phrases bring everything around full circle, so much like inescapable memories, so much like the theme of this book. This is the least linguistically poetic of all the works within Circe, but it shows the author’s intense forethought and care regarding structure.

Not since Gregory Orr’s Orpheus & Eurydice have I been so enamored of a poet’s use of established mythological/literary characters to ink a tale that flows beyond archived pages. Circe is not the only invocation Davis takes on; several sirens also deliver tales and warnings throughout the book. There is much as humor as there is genius in who delivers the poems and how the poems are sequenced. The content of the poems themselves, combined with the structure, make for an all-encompassing portrait of every kind of madness inspired by a love that cannot be held onto except in memory. Through a witch, sirens, and an island, Davis exposes the very tenderness that makes us all vulnerable – sometimes cradling it, sometimes torturing it, but always rendering it truly.

For a more representative sampling of the Davis’ poems from this marvelous work, check out the short (5 minute) book trailer/promo video with selections read aloud from various sections and accompanied by animated illustrations (also from the book):