Poet Todd Davis visited the University of Indianapolis on Tuesday, Sept. 23. Davis came to the university to give a 40-minute reading from his most recent poetry book, “In the Kingdom of the Ditch,” as a part of the Kellogg Writers Series.
Davis, originally from Elkhart, Ind., has written and helped compose seven published books of poetry.
His subject matter ranges from his love of basketball to nature to his takes on family, religion and death. Indianapolis was Davis’ first stop in his journey across the United States and Canada, where he will lecture and give readings at a number of colleges.
“[I travel] all across the country,” Davis said. “This semester alone, I’m starting here at the University of Indianapolis. I fly out Sunday and give a reading at Augustana College in Rock Island [Ill.], and the next week I’m driving to Utica College in New York. And after that, I’ve got another reading. I’m very fortunate.”
Davis read a number of poems from “In the Kingdom of the Ditch.” The book, like many of his others, is deeply rooted in his love and appreciation for nature and uses descriptions of things such as plants, trees and animals to allude to his true subject matter.
“I’m a naturalist. And if you were in my office, you would see volumes of field guides. And I will spend hours pouring over passages about particular kinds of trees,” Davis said. “And not just their literal biology, but are they attached to any myths or folklore, where do they grow and how [do] people use them? … My poems reflect that. And I hope if someone goes to a poetry reading or reads a book of mine, they can say, ‘I didn’t know poems could talk about that.’”
Students stayed engaged throughout the reading and expressed positive reactions afterward.
“It wasn’t what I expected,” said freshman nursing student Kelsey James. “I’m an animal person, and I like that a lot of the poems were about animals and his hometown. I also like that he explained each of the poems and their meanings.”
Davis credited his discovery of poet Maxine Kumin as one of the most important things in his development as a writer. She was an American poet and author who won a number of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, and was the U.S. Poet Laureate.
“She was a horsewoman in New Hampshire, and she had a poem called ‘The Excrement Poem.’ And it was about mucking out horse stalls,” Davis said. “I grew up the son of a veterinarian, and I had mucked out lots of kennels. I loved poetry, but I didn’t see how I could write a poem until I read Maxine Kumin’s poem.”
Davis, who now resides in Pennsylvania, is a man of nature, which was apparent in his reading at UIndy, as well as through his other works.
“Poems can be about, literally, anything,” Davis said. “I write about what I know about, and not only what I know about, but what I want to study further, and that is what you have to do.”