Tom Davis is a man of words. He colors paper with rhyme and reason and scenes of the modern world. While his poetry lacks much mention of butterflies and bunny rabbits, his work grabs a reader’s heart with his raw observations of the world and the people around him.
“Poetry is a way of life,” he said, “It attaches you to life in an unspeakable way.”
Born in Milan, Wash., Davis, 75, began his affair with words in his early 20s though he was introduced to them at a much younger age; his father, a school superintendent, often read poetry to Davis and his mother was an English teacher.
Davis went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington, then a master’s degree from Western Washington University with a major in writing poetry and a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University. At 23, Davis began teaching English in Molson, Wash., and writing poetry.
His career also included working for the U.S. Forest Service in the North Cascades, on Alaskan fishing boats, teaching aboard Navy vessels in the Western Pacific, and introducing young students and at-risk kids to poetry.
He moved to the Spokane area more than 20 years ago from Vashon Island, Wash., choosing Peaceful Valley as his area of residence after gazing down upon it from a bridge. He taught poetry throughout Spokane, began poetry readings and “slams” in area establishments, and has participated in local theater groups. Married for 26 years, Davis has seven children.
In 2000, Davis’ first book of poetry was published. Called “The Little Spokane,” the collection does not put things mildly. His poem “Putting it Mildly” explains, “These are the bleak facts: The world we have, the bald planet of the future purged of oppression, by scorching winds off the desert. We shall overcome, say the small, the creatures of lightness and some sweet smell.”
In “The Little Spokane,” Davis observes life along the river where the inhabitants “miss the point: there is this jest water makes moving.” In “Childhood Resolve,” he recalls learning to use the middle finger and in other poems he muses about .22s, fishing, barflies, no-see-ums, and a man trying to keep his pants up while using a grocery cart as a walker. While reading his work, a symphony of laughter, wails and jaws hitting the floor will likely accompany the words as readers react to his honest accounts of life.
At 3 p.m. Sunday, at the Bing Crosby Theater, Davis will read from his recently published book of poems called “Peaceful Valley as Told to Gregory King.” The collection encompasses all of the type of “stories” you might catch wind of in the back room of a dusty tavern or on a darkened front porch where the crackling ember of a dragged-upon smoke is the only illumination. They are flowing illustrations of hardships, redemption, comradeship and, even in the midst of it all, grace.
Davis’ front door is just a hop, skip and a jump from the shores of the Spokane River where he finds solitude. His home in Peaceful Valley is up for sale. He will move on with the river, “the blue line on the map of our infinite being,” still with him and enough material for three more books of sinuous observations.