A well produced and written first collection from an emerging publisher always represents an enticing prospect, and Gram Joel Davies’ Bolt Down This Earth (V. Press, 2017) is no exception.
Davies’ poetry relishes a sense of otherness which unsettles at first. At certain moments, conjunctions, prepositions or articles are suppressed, contractions avoided, nouns turned into verbs, everything often wrapped in the aural effect of repeated vowels. This means that the reader initially has to feel a way through these poems as if sight were blurred. However, as we get to grips with Davies’ idiosyncratic use of language, the consequence is that a perspective is eventually revealed afresh, brighter and more vivid than we could have expected.
One such example occurs in the closing lines of “The Plan”:
“…while you and I, at four a.m.,
thunder with the bedstead on the wall,
a bolt will plunge the flower bed,
the headland bitten like a scone,
and we’ll crescendo to the ocean floor –
ride the rocksled through a whooping storm.”
This extract provides two instances of nouns being converted into verbs – “thunder” and “crescendo”, while the reader would also conventionally expect a preposition after the verb “plunge”. Moreover, there’s an edgy, constant, almost enervating repetition of one vowel sound, “…bedstead…bed…headland…crescendo…”, all topped off by the inventive “rocksled” and complemented by a risky simile “like a scone” that pulls off its effect by evoking the crumbling texture and chalky appearance of the headland in question.
It does take a while for the reader to come to terms with Gram Joel Davies’ poetry, as if having to get used to a new dialect of an already-learnt language. Nevertheless, Bolt Down This Earth shows that the effort is worthwhile. Davies’ sonorous, surprising and jolting narratives are coherent, cohesive and highly unusual. They’ll challenge your expectations.