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Olena Kalytiak Davis

1963–

A first-generation Ukrainian-American, Olena Kalytiak Davis was born on September 16, 1963, in Detroit, Michigan. She was educated at Wayne State University, University of Michigan Law School, and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Her first collection of poetry, And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), was selected by Rita Dove for the 1997 Brittingham Prize. She is also the author of Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities (Tin House, 2003), On the Kitchen Table From Which Everything Has Been Hastily Removed (Hollyridge Press, 2009), and The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).

Davis has become known for transgressing social boundaries. Ira Sadoff has written about her reinvention of the confessional tone: "Her objective is to emphasize literature's experiential function: to enlarge consciousness, to make literature emotionally and intellectually applicable to the self. The work's smart, alternately witty, disagreeable, and moving; the resultant poems seem entirely intimate, but also gather the concerns of the age while employing a variety of poetic modes and linguistic practices....Above all, innovation aside, her poems bristle with a love of texture and the exploratory, substantive implications of language as emotional expression."

Davis is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rasumon Fellowship, the 1996 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, a Pushcart Prize, and several grants from the Alaska and Juneau Arts Councils. She lives and practices law Anchorage, Alaska.


Selected Bibliography

The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
On the Kitchen Table From Which Everything Has Been Hastily Removed (Hollyridge Press, 2009)
Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities (Tin House, 2003)
And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)

Olena Kalytiak Davis
Olena Kalytiak Davis

By This Poet

5

Least Said

Maybe we you us
But not everyone except
Everyone else seemingly set
One could romanticize the shipbells
Out of somebody else's grocery, sex shopping, life cleaning, bills 
Of sail. When they had fresh grapefruit it was nothing like you not having
Scurvy, with or without the vodka. Your friends 
Did they still say things (?) and the masses—
No, one didn't want to picture that vast
Writhing. Self-love is better left to this selective peculiar:
One shelf over, top shelf. The yeats, the years, none of it
More real than this. The judgment, the particular partings:
Reading a new yorker article about you. Reading. An article.
A small monster at my toe. There was once a long lusty list but
The only thing s/he had on me was feet. I went to course, to game, to 
College. The epiphany was not worth dwelling (placement word of 
Your choice here). Not to speak of, or the her, him, him before him, your last 
Lover but, "seeing someone else right now"? Mostly, the possessive pronoun
"Her" in the next clause. Whose unfairness? Be spoken and be longing. 
(An embarrassment of melons and heavily salted meats.)
The thing you will miss was being sexy, you will forget that you went 
Forgetting all along; the whole ride. Going, going. Not coming. Reading,
Too closely, will fail my the measure of some treasure 
You believe exists, but how? Morning was the only mooring: feeling, 
Thinking, seeing no one. Right 
Now. Or now. Barely tolerated, living.

My Love Sent Me a List

O my Love sent me a lusty list,
Did not compare me to a summer's day
Wrote not the beauty of mine eyes
But catalogued in a pretty detailed
And comprehensive way the way(s)
In which he was better than me.
"More capable of extra- and inter-
Polation. More well-traveled -rounded multi-
Lingual! More practiced in so many matters
More: physical, artistic, musical,
Politic(al) academic (I dare say!) social
(In many ways!) and (ditto!) sexual!"
And yet these mores undid but his own plea(s)(e)
And left, none-the-less, the Greater Moor of me.


About this poem:
"No, really, a found poem; however, I also find, that if one reads thirty or so Shakespearean sonnets in a row (out loud), something is bound to happen."

Olena Kalytiak Davis

Corruptive

The dark wood after the dark wood: the cold 
after cold in April's false November.
In that second worser place: more gone, less there,
but in that lurid present present, cast and held, 

rooted, kept, like some old false-berried yew. 
Just against; the door leading to preferment 
shut; no longer believing in still, by some, few
means, method, could be, but for the bad day set, 

left, leaning atop bad day. 
							Out- and un-

ranked, toothached, wronged— rankled corruptive thing!
Ill-wishing, in-iquitous, clipped, up-hoped, stripped: just plain: thin.
Dare thy commit: commit this final fatal sin: 
God my God, I am displeased by spring.

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