Davis McCombs will be judging our Mary Ruffin Poole Award for poems on American heritage, nature, or siblinghood.
He has this to say about the role of the poet:
Even though the challenges and upheavals of 2020 have been unprecedented, I do not believe that the role of the poet—or of the poem, for that matter—have changed from what they have always been. So often in these last months I have thought of what Seamus Heaney wrote on this very topic. Heaney was my mentor and teacher in college and this brief passage is taken from his marvelous essay “The Government of the Tongue”:
“Here is the great paradox of poetry and of the imaginative arts in general. Faced with the brutality of the historical onslaught, they are practically useless. Yet they verify our singularity, they strike and stake out the ore of self which lies at the base of every individuated life. In one sense, the efficacy of poetry is nil—no lyric has ever stopped a tank. In another sense, it is unlimited.”
No one wrestled with these questions more than Heaney did. And I think what he says here is wonderfully perceptive and absolutely correct.
Davis shares this poem with us:
Davis McCombs is the author of three collections of poetry, Ultima Thule (Yale 2000), Dismal Rock (Tupelo 2007), and lore (University of Utah Press 2016). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review and many other publications. A recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, McCombs directs the Program in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he has taught since 2001.