Tuesday 11 August 2020

Jonathan Davidson, "A Commonplace"

Jonathan Davidson, photo by Lee Allen

Jonathan Davidson was born in 1964 and grew up in the Didcot, South Oxfordshire. He has lived for many years in Coventry and now lives in Birmingham. He won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 1990 and his first collection of poetry, The Living Room, was published by Arc Publications in 1994. This was followed, seventeen years later by Early Train (Smith|Doorstop, 2011). He has also published three poetry pamphlets, Moving the Stereo (Jackson’s Arm, 1993), A Horse Called House (Smith|Doorstop, 1997) and Humfrey Coningsby: Poems, Complaints, Explanations and Demands for Satisfaction (Valley Press, 2015), and an e-book Selected Poems (Smith|Doorstop, 2014). His combination of memoir and criticism, On Poetry, was published by Smith|Doorstop in 2018 and his latest collection is A Commonplace (Smith|Doorstop, 2020).

He has had eight radio plays broadcast on BBC Radio Three and Radio Four, along with radio adaptations of Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns and W. S. Graham’s The Nightfishing on BBC Radio Three. His stage adaptation of Mary Webb’s novel Precious Bane was produced by Interplay Theatre and toured extensively in 2008 and 2009. He has produced six poetry-theatre works, his most recent touring shows were The Hundred Years’ War (touring in 2014/15) and Towards the Water’s Edge (touring in 2016/17), both co-productions with Bloodaxe Books and the Belgrade Theatre Coventry. Jonathan's website is here

About A Commonplace
By Jonathan Davidson

Poems – my own and other people’s – are scattered across my life. They are in books and notebooks, folded in wallets and hidden in desk drawers; a few are memorised. They are as commonplace as food and drink. I wouldn’t want to live without them, although I dare say I could. They will be the last things I forget when I have forgotten everything else. Some of these poems are gathered together in this book, A Commonplace.

A Commonplace is a collection of my own poems interleaved with other people’s poems, poems I admire and that give solace or inspiration. As there are things I want to say about my own poems, and about those by other poets, I have included an on-going commentary. This isn’t something I’ve done before, but it has made me think about how poetry is released into the world.

You can order A Commonplace here. Below, you can read two poems from the book. 


They are bringing back the borders.
So a night train whines to a dead halt
and in the blazing darkness of suspicion
uniformed men – just doing a job – thump
through doors and fill the corridors
with their orders and mistrust.

They are looking for the others, not you.
But still, your eyes look to your shoes
in need of spit and polish. You hope
they do not stop. They stop.
You hear the hum of electricity.
Voices demand papers. And it begins.

Live Broadcast

Too late to go out and nowhere to go
anyway, I content myself with this
celestial but dis-concerting music,

a Brandenburg by J S Bach, which they enjoy
in London very much. Your message says
you’re sitting down to listen to it too,

or busying yourself with things that must
be done, or watching as the last high clouds
grow dark. Although we are alone the gods

of digital transmission have ensured
the sound they give to me they give to you.
Now all that is between us is the music,

which is not anything at all, but keeps
our little minutes and our little thoughts
in its design, so that we can be known

each to the other, keeping time, until
the final notes have died away and grand
applause releases us back to our selves.

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