DC Published Author Collective: Ethel Mortenson Davis
Poet and artist Ethel Mortenson Davis has published six books and one chapbook of poetry, and her poems have appeared in anthologies and literary magazines. In 2018, the Wisconsin Library Association named her book Under the Tail of the Milky Way Galaxy an Outstanding Book of Poetry by a Wisconsin Poet.
Her books are available at Novel Bay Booksellers and OtherWorlds Books in Sturgeon Bay, Fair Isle Books on Washington Island, Lion’s Mouth Bookstore in Green Bay, and Amazon.
In what way does your connection with Door County influence your writing?
Door County is part of the landscape of Wisconsin, and I am very influenced by the physical nature of this area of water, lakes, forest, islands, cliffs and wildlife.
I am also a member of the Dickinson Poetry Circle that reads poetry once a month at the Unitarian Universalist church in Ephraim, the Door County Poets’ Collective and the Unabridged Poetry group that gets together at Write On. This involvement stimulates the writing process.
Talk about your writing process.
When I write, I take notes from words, phrases, sentences and images. Then I start handwriting the poem, creating a structure for the poem. After getting images and ideas down, I rewrite each poem 10 or more times.
I don’t have a specific time for writing, but write whenever I have an idea, even if it comes in the middle of the night.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
A writer should write about something that is really important to them. There must be mystery. A poem needs to take a turn that gives a meaning larger than the images or description seem to originally indicate. Symbols are important. Emotion is important. The poem has to use new, original word combinations, images or ideas. Intensity in all of the above is also an important factor.
Do you have any advice about the publishing process?
Publishing requires a lot of persistence. My husband, Thomas Davis, and I also manage Four Windows Press, which publishes some of my books. It also published the work of other writers.
You have to be able to accept rejection slips without getting discouraged, understanding – since I’ve been a co-editor of both Bramble and the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar – that editors get a huge number of manuscripts and have to choose from among some very good submissions that there is just not room to include.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Bewilderment by Richard Powers; Looking North, a book about art from the University of Alaska Museum, edited by Aldona Jonaitis; and Garden of Things Lost, a book of poetry by Paula Sayword.
The Door County Published Authors Collective is a group that brings together and champions local writers.
Life We went past somebody’s place, and there were things sitting all over and kids and a woman looking out a window at a cat, and the kids were in puddles with their eyes in oceans, and they were waiting for a storm or something, and the place looked twice as junky as it did when the snow was, but it didn’t matter because it smelled warm, and the sky was heavy, and life stood in the mud, open-mouthed.
Reflections of a Country Girl for her Mother Once, when the creek had swelled its banks in spring, and I had run to meet its new boundaries to build a raft that could carry me down the Little Sandy towards lands unknown, I was sidetracked by a patch of blue and yellow violets— too many to let go unnoticed, found among the wet and shady places— and I forgot about the countries unseen. And in fist-fulls I came running, sharing them with you— and you received them well, arranging them in glass jars, teaching me to love the spring beauties and things, the funny-faced Holstein calves, and the timid chickadees who came in December to snatch your winter’s crumbs.
Love Song When scientists discovered the wings of a cricket preserved in stone from the Jurassic period, they played its wings and heard an ancient love song never heard in our world before, a new song. This morning, while driving home: A colt had been flung to the side of the road, killed in the night by a passing car, its little body nearly missed because it was so small— small enough to still be brought to its mother’s belly, its mother gone, too, a love song unfinished.