Updated: Aug 15, 2021
Arlice W. Davenport is the author of Setting the Waves on Fire (Meadowlark Press, 2020). He has been writing poems for more than 50 years, first spurred on after reading E. E. Cummings in a high school English class. Cummings’ diction was kinetic; his use of language innovative and spry, springing from a deep need for vitality and creative freedom that could effortlessly twist punctuation, syntax and spacing into new, barely recognizable forms.
Early on, Davenport understood Cummings’ radical, Dadaist poems as primarily surface play across the page. Now, he realizes that Cummings was searching for the primal language beyond modern American English, for the Ur-metaphor “This is that,” the mystical energy of his poetic art.
Today, Davenport aims at that same type of mystic poetry, after having had an epiphany in his twenties in the archaeological villa near Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico. In the prose poem “Awakening,” he expresses the strength and lasting impact of that epiphany:
The sky wavered orange and gray, as dusk settled over the Mayan ruins,
the Yucatan scrub land, the cooling tiles of the archaeological villa
the fading, fiery orb of the sun, musing on Kukulcan, the sacred cenote,
the Mayans’ murderous ball game, their majestic pyramid,
and rows upon rows of chiseled skulls. When suddenly an epiphany
engulfed me: I saw my life come together as a perfect whole,
from beginning to end, and it showed one thing only:
that I would be and remain a writer. My soul rose in ecstasy.
I have never failed to feed it since.
Davenport, a lifelong Wichitan, is the retired Travel editor and Books page editor for The Wichita Eagle newspaper. With his wife, Laura, he has explored Europe more than thirty times. They are still in awe of the journey.