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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

“Anytime is a good time for poetry:” Arlice Davenport releases debut poetry collection

Arlice Davenport: “a synthesizer,
pulling together the disparate
sides of [his] personality
into an integral whole.” 
Arlice Davenport has established a name for himself as a writer and editor, but the Wichita native has been up to another writing project throughout his career that is freshly seeing the light of day next week. He’s been working on a “long-standing dream” of his—writing and publishing a book of poetry. 

Davenport has been a writer since his childhood. His parents bought him a typewriter, and the words couldn’t stop flowing out of him. He started chronicling the fantasy baseball league he and his neighbor played. Though his neighbor wasn’t impressed, Davenport later caught the attention of The Wichita Eagle, where he edited and wrote for the sports department, then moved on to news and features. 

Davenport was initially captivated by poetry when he was 17 years old. “[In Just-]” by E. E. Cummings inspired him, especially the way Cummings “[twisted] and [turned] spacing, punctuation and syntax to create an innovative meaning that was intentional, straight from the heart,” the About the Author section of the book reads. Davenport wanted to use language in this way, too, and pays homage to Cummings stylistically in his debut poetry collection, Setting the Waves on Fire.

With the opportunity, the means, the motive, and two great “accomplices,” Davenport was ready to deliver his book into the world. Robert L. Dean, Jr. got the ball rolling, serving as Davenport’s editor, and Davenport sent the manuscript to Meadowlark Press Publisher Tracy Million Simmons upon Dean’s suggestion. Tracy accepted the manuscript, and the rest slid right into place. 

“I had been waiting for that yes,” Davenport said, “yet another day to celebrate.”
Davenport has always striven to “live for that yes,” as he describes one of his life philosophies. 
“When I was much younger, I wrote in my journal, ‘You must live religiously or poetically. Otherwise your life is wasted,’” adding that a good explanation of the philosophy comes from the poet William Butler Yeats: “After the final no / there comes a yes, / and on that yes the / future world depends.”
Davenport certainly does not waste his life, describing himself as “a philosopher, a poet, a husband, a follower of mere Christianity, as C. S. Lewis so beautifully describes it, a traveler, a pilgrim, a seer, a friend, and a newspaperman who edits everything he sees,” but, most importantly, he is “a synthesizer, pulling together the disparate sides of [his] personality into an integral whole.” 
The many components that make up Davenport add perspective and heart to his poetry. His poetry often slips into lineated expression of philosophical inquiries and musings, writing in “The Living Self:”

The Transcendental Ego reigns over all,
smoothing the way for a unity of experience, 
smoothing the way for a universe of sense.
I stroll alone through the empty patches
of meadow, waiting for Wordsworth's 
daffodils to bloom. Waiting for poetry
to usurp the role of narrative, metaphor
crowned as the foundation of knowledge.

Philosophy and poetry are both vital for a greater understanding of Being, Davenport said.
“Both philosophy and poetry begin in wonder, philosophy in the wonder of Being, that there is anything at all,” he said. “[P]oetry emerges in the wonder of experience, which happens to us, which is spontaneous and continuous and cannot not happen to us. Both paths ultimately lead to the primal presence of Being. Philosophy reaches it through contemplation and rational articulation; poetry does it through the symbolism of language.”
In his own poetry, Davenport aims “to bring ideas and images of our experience together in the poem, then let them do their own individual magic.”
Many of the experiences that have drawn out the poet in Davenport involve travel. 

“Travel is the great counterpart to poetry; it opens up the field of our experience to the ‘always-more’ of the world, not in quantity but in quality,” he said. “Travel strips us of our presuppositions, our pretenses, our cultural safety nets, and exposes us to the ‘always-new’ of a different country. World travel is one of the most expansive means of broadening your mind, deepening your spirit, delighting your senses, and laying down a new direction for your life … Travel is like poetry and like pilgrimage. They move you (sometimes literally) into a new understanding/dimension of yourself.” 
Love also moves a person into a new understanding of oneself. Davenport and his wife, Laura, have been married for 40 years. She has been a part of his travel over 30 times to Europe alone, and she has been a part of his life since she was seven years old. Davenport refers to his wife as his “Muse of Beauty” and describes her “inward, radiant beauty” as the thing that reminds him, “beauty has to be at the heart of poetry. Poetry is language chasing beauty.”
The heart of the poet—an essence Davenport explores throughout the book—chases more than love and beauty, though. He describes the heart of the poet as being “open to the depth and breadth of experience, which again comes to us … Thus the heart of the poet extracts the heart of experience and expresses it anew is a different mode: poetic language. That type of heart can never be too big, too sensitive, too full.”
The poet has layers that all compose Being. The book is divided into four sections: waves: SPIRIT, waves: WORLD, waves: POETRY, and waves: BEING. Davenport said the sections “build from spirit, world, and poetry to a crescendo in Being.” Each section begins with a Rainer Maria Rilke quotation, which Davenport felt best supported the divisions. He said Rilke is “the best, only and most visionary poet to give voice to my own poetic aspirations.”
The simplest of his poetic aspirations is his want for readers “to find joy, aesthetic pleasure, and wonder in my book,” he said. “Of course, those books need to be sold. If that happens, then I will be very pleased.” 
Davenport extends an invitation to chat with him about his book or about poetry to anyone interested. He can be contacted via email at arliced@yahoo.com, and you can read more about his thoughts and his new poetry at his Facebook page, In Praise of Poetry. 
A virtual book launch for Setting the Waves on Fire with Davenport will take place at 7 p.m., October 14. Registration information can be found at www.meadowlark-books.com.

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