Nia Davies was born in Sheffield in the United Kingdom and studied English at the University of Sussex where she won the first Stanmer Prize for poetry. Her poems have featured in Bird Book from Sidekick Books and The Salt Book of Younger Poets and in magazines such as Poetry Wales, White Review and Poetry Northeast. Then Spree is her first publication – a pamphlet of poems published in the Salt Modern Voices series in 2012. Nia is currently based in London where she works for Literature Across Frontiers – a European platform for literary translation and intercultural dialogue. She is also a project manager for Cyfnewidfa Len Cymru / Wales Literature Exchange – Wales’s hub for literary translation.
“The poems in Then Spree take language for a ride bare-backed through fringe-worlds: through the backwoods of forgotten histories to the watery edges of landmasses, from the sunken, frayed psyche of a man living underwater to the wild spree of a meandering imagination. This debut introduces a poet devoted to the wayward call of music and always prepared to risk terror for the rewards of song, love and insight.”
“Nia Davies’s poems are sharply attentive to the realm of the ‘inner ear’, a meeting point of external and internal environments. The lines have their own intense music, but instead of approaching song’s recognition and resolution they push towards the unfamiliar. Archaeologies and soundscapes are carefully excavated in language that sparks at every turn, while multiple directions open for the reader and ‘choice is a parallelogram/ best made on the slant’.”
– Zoë Skoulding
“These are poems of great subtlety and depth, with acute emotional precision and a canny kind of brilliance. It is alert, quick and ancient, all at the same time. It is simply beautiful.”
– Jay Griffiths
“Davies (who hails from Sheffield but has Welsh roots) writes rich and adventurous poems. Appropriately for someone who works with Literature Across Frontiers, her work feels borderless, influenced by experimental American and eastern European poetries as much as—probably more than—the British canon. Her Welsh identity, if it is on display at all, shows in the dense, heavily stressed fabric of the verse, which seems (or sounds) conversant with Cynghanedd, Hopkins and Glyn Jones. In the event that an ‘I’ surfaces in her work, it is defiantly plastic and multivalent.”
– Dai George, from the essay ‘Worth their Salt’
On and off,
it’s the benign traffic light
of his coruscating heart:
a triangular jellyfish, spreading
and closing, visible through the greased glass
of the night bus. He travels
sunkenly and half-happy
through a dawdling soup,
the city’s deep midwater.
Aboard this electric ark,
his macaw-red eyes weep vodka,
a cell perishes with every blink.
He rides to his stop by the all-night butchers.
All alit are the stripped shins
and beheaded hens.
When they dangle like that
they witness his troubled isosceles,
lighthousing through his body.
He must walk on, possible
only by beating at
the krill-strewn sea.
In the ninth abyss
the tensing pipes of his bright organ
widen for water.
Bubble headed, diving-bell brained,
he drifts, in a bee’s aerial course,
across the night-hewn road,
tacks against the wind siphoned by streets,
longs to suck its stream of nutrients.
Under awnings, the Michelin man
has stacked up black rubber, bright
as dull can be under yellow light.
He is cast towards the pub and its open arms,
but those poor stung legs,
are feeling the taunt of stingray pikes,
and from the frets of the sea bed
come the coral polyps, alive and clinging.
It’s slow going. The massing gutter sounds,
the tump on the slabs by other fish.
Unlike them. He is unalike:
a crawling embittered stumble,
white with flummox.
Daylight and there is dimming
in our aged white star. Past the Coexistence Trust
a peculiar grey in green.
It’s all the trick of that ailing thing,
the sun, that melts and forgets radiance,
fluffs hem, cuff and hairline.
He walks in a very straight line
towards the sinking star,
across the royal park.
The press on his lungs is lessened
in the light. But still in his head the fug
of a sorry skin-dive.
When he was born, there was too much soft tissue
in the x-ray. Chatting was outlawed.
Now he’s passing into paving
and grass, with each step
the charnels of the sea go blank.
In each step a bone replaces
tentacle. He is gaining buoyancy
hourly, but he is still awash,
still the Crown Jelly.
i Want To Do Everything
Bibulous, happy, exploded in the litter
of pomegranate, I want to live long.
And face the glaciers’ flume. It’s spring,
it’s spring in that toothpaste. The winter is game,
asks me to press forward: evenly. Then spree.
The rubble of my room, the follicles pushed up,
flowering envelopes, springs of seed packeted.
What can be chosen amid this?
In the bed we’ll live long to bear orang-utans.
And in clusters of eight we’ll count them.
Nine might be holy. And it’s better
when it’s a charmed story.
Peeled wheat at breakfast, blood oranges and March.
Let it be March soon.
from Then Spree (Salt Publishing).
Order Then Spree.
Visit Nia’s blog, Sky Like That.