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Adam O. Davis & Emma Hine – Index of Haunted Houses & Stay Safe
February 18 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm PST
Join Book Passage in welcoming Adam O. Davis (author of Index of Haunted Houses) and Emma Hine (author of Stay Safe) for a reading and discussion celebrating their debut poetry collections, both of which received the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and were recently published by Sarabande Books.
Index of Haunted Houses is a book of ghost stories, and for the most part, ghosts are jealous monsters, intent upon our destruction. They never appear overtly here, yet we gradually become aware of the spirits in haunted houses in the way they tread over creaky floors, slam doors, and issue sudden gusts of wind. These poems are Koan-like—the fewer the words, the more charged they are. The engine driving the sense of haunting and loss is money, which Davis describes as “federal bone” boiling around us. Bison in Nebraska are reduced to bones, “seven/standing men/tall” fodder for the fertilizer used by farmers in the 1800s. There is, too, an equality to the hauntings—every instance has its moment, and persists, despite being in the past, present, or future. Index of Haunted Houses is spooky and sad—a stunning debut, one that will surprise, convince, and most of all, delight.
“From ‘the body of New Jersey’ to ‘the desert/like a house of belief,’ the poems of Index of Haunted Houses traverse the entirety of time and space that we call American. In this book, Adam O. Davis means for language as precise as ‘ledgers lavish with loss,’ to lead us to the place within us where history meets landscape. This is a brilliant debut.”
At the center of Emma Hine’s stellar collection are three sisters and their imaginative fear of grief. Their great-uncle was bitten by a shark, their mother has a brain tumor, their neighbor hangs himself from a tree—and to cope with these very real terrors, the oldest sister creates an intimate fantasy world. We hear stories of a mountain lion that slaughters a deer, a transparent body washed up on a beach, a selkie who ventures to shore and becomes their mother: “On land her pelt was heavy / like stewed velvet, so she taught herself / to take it off.” The sisters’ environment of ocean and sand, forests and farmhouses, forms a lush backdrop to many of these poems. But later, as the speaker ages, we find ourselves in the mountains, in an art museum, in a spacecraft where a recorded voice “has the soft accent of someone only a generation or two removed from Earth.” The voice in these poems is the perfect mix of grief and imagination, quiet and explosion. Stay Safe is delicate and extraordinary, a powerful debut.
“Simply said: this is the renewable energy we’ve been waiting for. So attuned are these poems to their introspective nature and terrors of the self, their wild narratives, and linguistic spells, this book begins to feel like its own solar farm: each page, a panel of skyshine and wonderments.”
Adam O. Davis is the author of Index of Haunted Houses, winner of the Kathryn A. Morton poetry prize, which was published by Sarabande Books in September 2020. The recipient of the 2016 George Bogin Memorial award from the Poetry Society of America, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Believer, The Best American Poetry 2021, The Paris Review, and ZYZZYVA. He lives in San Diego, California, where he teaches English literature at The Bishop’s School.
Emma Hine is the author of Stay Safe, which received the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and was published by Sarabande Books in January. Her poems have appeared in Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, The Offing, The Paris Review, and The Southern Review, among others, and she currently works at the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses.