Monday, May 9, 2016

A Naked Tree (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

Last week I reviewed Yet One More Spring  from William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and after reading through that book I decided to review A Naked Tree, I read The Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis back in 2015, so I knew that at some point I should read the poetry of his wife, if for nothing more than comparison's sake. Well, I finally have so let me tell you a little bit about the book.

A Naked Tree is subtitled "Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis and Other Poems." However, this subtitle is misleading and used for name recognition to help the book sell more copies. The book is in fact 300 pages long with only 40 of those pages devoted to the Love Sonnets. The book is organized chronologically and starts with poetry as early as 1929, when Joy Davidman would have been only 14 years of age. I remember poetry I wrote at that age, and it was nowhere near as composed as her poetry. Here is a sample:

What spur of gold is this that pricks the dawn
To further flaming of its fierce desire
Of glory? On the eager winds of morn
Comes bowing down the soul-devouring fire
That keenly lashes the mad spirit higher
And higher yet; the dry hot fever of fame,
The far bright crown to which all slaves aspire-
Need most imperative, to which the name
Of fondest love shows but a flickering flame.

After her early poetry, the complete "Letter to a Comrade" is included in this anthology, and this section is followed by "Poems 1939-1940" and "Poems 1941-1952." Looking at just the length of these sections, it seems that Davidman did a bulk of her poetry writing from 1938 ("Letter to a Comrade" poetry) to 1940, as these two sections/three years comprised 125 of the 300 pages. When you finally do arrive at the love sonnets, it feels like arriving home after a long journey. Her poetry up until that point felt like she wasn't sure who she was and that she was searching. The sonnets to C.S. Lewis, it is like she has finally found what she is looking for, not just C.S. Lewis, but God as well.

Reading through this book, I can safely say two things. First, Joy Davidman was a much better poet than her husband C.S. Lewis. Second, Davidman was much less appreciated and acknowledged that C.S. Lewis. If you want to understand not just Joy Davidman, but also C.S. Lewis, then this is a book that you should take the time to read. Once again, Don W. King demonstrates his impeccable research and brings us an important book on Lewis and Davidman. If you have an interest in either/both of these authors, pick up a copy of this book for your personal library.

This book was provided to me for free by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!