By Raina Barnett
On Thursday afternoon, April 17 in building 8 room 110, almost every single seat in the humanities auditorium was occupied. Poet Steve Davenport was the attraction, presenting his poems that have been published in scores of literary magazines and many other journals. He is the author of two poetry collections, “Overpass” and “Uncontainable Noise.” At this event, he read selections from each book.
April 17 was Davenport’s first time in Ocala, and his first time in Florida. He is from Hartford, Illinois, a refinery town just north of Grant City. When Davenport talked about his hometown, visions of the Valley of Ashes from The Great Gatsby came to mind.
“It was an industrial wasteland right around the corner from where I lived,” Davenport said.
Hartford seemed like a rough, hard to place live, and this theme is paralleled in Davenport’s work.
When reading his own work, Davenport was immersed. He oozed intense focus and his listeners were absolutely transfixed, not a single word was whispered during Davenport’s reading.
His topics cover difficult material, from death to alcohol abuse to cancer.
One poem he read was actually written by request of one of his friends. She had breast cancer, stage four, and felt anger at the people who would tell her to pray and keep fighting, but she could not express her anger, so asked Davenport to write the words for her. Davenport was able to “scream with words,” in the poem entitled “Good Housekeeping” from his book “Overpass.”
Davenport says he plays with form and structure when writing his poems.
“I like to use sonnets,” Davenport said. “Some of my poems are curtal sonnets, which is 75% a sonnet. You think I’m making this up but it’s a real thing!”
Davenport thrives on order in his poetry.
“I’ll count syllables,” Davenport said. “I guess I find order in the containment that is necessary for certain forms.”
His book, “Overpass,” is entirely made up of magazine titles. That is, every title for every poem in this book is a real magazine. This is the book that centers on cancer. Davenport explained both reasons for this.
“They’re like the magazines you’d read while in a doctor’s office,” Davenport said. “Also, I need triggers to start writing, and this (the titles) just fit so perfectly, it’s so poetic.”
One audience member at the event ventured to ask Davenport, “What does poetry do for you?”
Davenport was happy to answer this.
“It channels my OCD,” he said. “If not poetry, it’d be puzzles. I have to be organized. If I were to go blind tomorrow, I’d still like to know where everything is.”
Poetry can be enlightening, intense, scary and even saddening. Davenport’s poems may evoke a number of feelings from his readers, but one thing is certain: he claims there is no anger in him.
“I’m not an angry person,” Davenport said. “I don’t yell, I don’t really get upset. I just write.”