A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis and Other Poems

A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis and Other Poems

Posted by jack_miller | Published 7 months ago

With 17 ratings

By: Joy Davidman and Don W. King

Purchased At: $27.00

Displays for the first time the complete work of a neglected poetic genius

Although best known as C. S. Lewis's wife, Joy Davidman was a gifted writer herself who produced, among other things, two novels and an award-winning volume of poetry in her short lifetime.

The first comprehensive collection of Davidman's poetry, A Naked Tree includes the poems that originally appeared in her Letter to a Comrade (1938), forty other published poems, and more than two hundred previously unpublished poems that came to light in a remarkable 2010 discovery.

Of special interest is Davidman's sequence of forty-five love sonnets to C. S. Lewis, which offer stunning evidence of her spiritual struggles with regard to her feelings for Lewis, her sense of God's working in her lonely life, and her mounting frustration with Lewis for keeping her at arm's length emotionally and physically.

Readers of these Davidman poems -- arranged chronologically by Don King -- will discover three recurring, overarching themes: God, death, and immortality; politics, including capitalism and communism; and (the most by far) romantic, erotic love. This volume marks Joy Davidman as a figure to be reckoned with in the landscape of twentieth-century American poetry.
Reading Joy Davidman’s writing help illuminate the book “Becoming Mrs. Lewis “.

- london_jackson

I am a Lewis fan but did not know this book existed. It is beautiful. Insight into his wife, Joy Lewis.

- duncan_morris

Beautifully done. I am new to the poetry of Joy D. Lewis, but so far it's wonderful!! :-D

- lainey_martinez

Great book with great delivery.

- hector_taylor

A Naked Tree is subtitled "Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis and Other Poems." However, this subtitle is misleading and used for name recognition to help the book sell more copies. The book is in fact 300 pages long with only 40 of those pages devoted to the Love Sonnets. The book is organized chronologically and starts with poetry as early as 1929, when Joy Davidman would have been only 14 years of age. I remember poetry I wrote at that age, and it was nowhere near as composed as her poetry. Here is a sample:

What spur of gold is this that pricks the dawn
To further flaming of its fierce desire
Of glory? On the eager winds of morn
Comes bowing down the soul-devouring fire
That keenly lashes the mad spirit higher
And higher yet; the dry hot fever of fame,
The far bright crown to which all slaves aspire-
Need most imperative, to which the name
Of fondest love shows but a flickering flame.

After her early poetry, the complete "Letter to a Comrade" is included in this anthology, and this section is followed by "Poems 1939-1940" and "Poems 1941-1952." Looking at just the length of these sections, it seems that Davidman did a bulk of her poetry writing from 1938 ("Letter to a Comrade" poetry) to 1940, as these two sections/three years comprised 125 of the 300 pages. When you finally do arrive at the love sonnets, it feels like arriving home after a long journey. Her poetry up until that point felt like she wasn't sure who she was and that she was searching. The sonnets to C.S. Lewis, it is like she has finally found what she is looking for, not just C.S. Lewis, but God as well.

Reading through this book, I can safely say two things. First, Joy Davidman was a much better poet than her husband C.S. Lewis. Second, Davidman was much less appreciated and acknowledged that C.S. Lewis. If you want to understand not just Joy Davidman, but also C.S. Lewis, then this is a book that you should take the time to read. Once again, Don W. King demonstrates his impeccable research and brings us an important book on Lewis and Davidman. If you have an interest in either/both of these authors, pick up a copy of this book for your personal library.

- thomas_mitchell

The relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman is endlessly fascinating. Don W. King brings his considerable research and scholarly perspective to the important find of Joy's sonnets, producing a volume that adds flesh to the bones of the friendship between Lewis and Davidman which blossomed into romance. He also proves what an outstanding poet this woman truly was, a publishing triumph in itself.

- shawn_gray

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