A Field Officer’s Notebook by Dan Davin (Cold Hub Press, 2018), 104 pp., $29.95; Murmurations by Art Nahill (Two Hemispheres Poetry, 2018) 68 pp., $27; How to Defeat the Philistines by David Beach (David Beach, 2018), 64 pp., $25; Crisis & Duplication by David Merritt (Compound Press, 2017), 22 pp., $20
‘If I ever get round to making sense of the preceding,’ wrote Dan Davin before his death, ‘I’ll call it Field Officer’s Notebook.’ Editor Robert McLean has honoured this intention, making sense and order of a lifetime’s work in this posthumously published collection. McLean’s introduction provides valuable context, describing the three stages of life in which Davin’s poetry was written: while at university, while serving in World War Two, and during his later years in England. And though the introduction self-consciously admits that some of Davin’s work might now seem dated, the depth of feeling evoked in these poems spans the decades easily.
These are poems heavy with the weight of disillusionment – even those written long before Davin had seen the horrors of war. ‘Perspective’ captures that disenchantment that is keenest-felt when fresh, in adolescence: ‘My father was a hero once. / Now he is a man. / The world shrinks from infinity / To a finger’s span.’ A few pages on comes a lament for wasted talent: ‘In what diversity of sterile tasks / Have I diffused my power, that these full years / Have built no monument of mine.’ If the language and style here are period-specific, the feeling is surely near-universal. [Read more…]