Grounded in wonder and fueled by an impulse to praise, the poems in James Davis May's debut collection, Unquiet Things, grapple with skepticism, violence, and death to generate lasting insights into the human experience. With compassion and humor, this second and final volume in Claudia Emerson’s Goat Island Poets series exposes the unseen tragedies and rejoices in the small, surprising moments of grace in everyday life.
May’s poems impart sincere astonishment at the natural world, where experiences of nature serve as "stand-ins, almost, / for grace." His poems seek to transcend cynicism, turning often to the landscapes of North Georgia, his native Pittsburgh, and eastern Europe, as well as to his literary forebears, for guidance. For the poet, no force propels that transcendence more powerfully than love: love for his wife and daughter, love for language, and love for the incomprehensible world that he inhabits. These stylistically varied poems are by turns conversational, earnest, self-deprecating, meditative, and often funny, whether they're discussing grand themes such as love and beauty, or more corporeal subjects like fever and food poisoning.
Lyrical and strange, tragic and amusing, Unquiet Things traces an experiential journey in the ordinary world, uncovering joys that span from the lingering memories of childhood to the losses and triumphs of adulthood.
The Reddened Flower, the Erotic Bird
Portrait of the Self as Skunk Cabbage
Time for Such a Word
The Reality Auction
If You Want the Truth
The Problem with Poems That Describe Love
It Only Brings Me Sorrow
To My Lover’s Ex-Husband
Fields and Ledges
It Must Have Been the Mussels
An Explanation of Romanticism
My Keats Year
Reflections on Having Left a Place of Employment
The Crypt on the Rock
L’Origine du Monde
At the Artists’ Colony
The Sap Gone Out
The Causes of Saints
An Existential Bear
Smerdyakov with a Guitar
A Variation on the Same
Someone Takes a Pine Tree Apart
Critique and Rebuttal
A Lasting Sickness
Originally from Pittsburgh, James Davis May now lives in the Georgia mountains. His poems have appeared in Five Points, the Missouri Review, New England Review, New Ohio Review, New Republic, Rattle, and The Southern Review, among others. He is married to poet Chelsea Rathburn.
Praise for Unquiet Things
“Unquiet Things is the debut collection by James Davis May, a poet with prodigious powers of observation and description. . . . The clarity of May’s writing and his self-deprecating honesty create an intriguing intimacy of the ordinary.”—Green Mountain Review
James May's website
Visit James Davis May at his online home: http://jamesdavismay.com.
Extras for Unquiet Things
"Ed Smith" won the Poetry Society of America's Cecil Hemley Memorial Award in 2016. Read it now!