Club Q

James DavisPublication: October 15th, 2020

£10.99

Winner of the 15th Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize

Foreword by the judge, Edward Hirsch

Club Q is a book of mid-American yearning for both exceptionalism and belonging. Beginning as a coming-out narrative, the poems track the story of a gay boy growing up in Colorado Springs, under the spectres of the U.S. military, megachurch Christianity, and chain-restaurant capitalism. As the speaker ages, he examines his complicity in his isolation and struggles to define community on his own terms. Through formal invention, high- and low-culture references, and deep wordplay, Club Q invites the reader to inhabit the precise imprecision of our human situation.

Coming Soon

ISBN: 9781911379010 Extent: 96pp Category:

Club Q

Club Q is a startling book. It is cleverly conceived, formally deft, musically resourceful. It is also flamboyantly gay, the queerest of queer poetry books—it keeps finding closets to shred—and takes special pleasure in its literary outings and exposures, its urban scenes and outposts. I like the way it nods to Wallace Stevens and James Merrill, who claimed that he was ‘as American as lemon chiffon pie,’ and takes wordplay at its word, mining the language to see what it will yield … James Davis loves shimmering surfaces, linguistic games. But his virtuoso formal strategies only partly succeed in hiding the pain of a lonely, misunderstood childhood growing up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, dogged by malls and megachurches, shadowed by a U. S. Military base … In this book, we can trace some of the ways that a misfit kid who once sat in tears in silent protest grows up to become a gay man looking for a way to transcend his isolation and find community. He seeks a refuge. That’s why Q becomes a Club…. James Davis has a fresh voice and a witty, inclusive mission, and it gives me great pleasure to welcome this book into the world. I’m eager to invite you to a new democratic venue, which is now open: Club Q. — from Edward Hirsch’s foreword

Club Q is an elegant, unsparing book of inquiry, where ‘curiosity / is the recognition of ignorance / as a kind of sickness.’ One eyebrow cocked, queer as fuck, James Davis lays bare our various longings to connect, and the attendant absurdity: men in a hotel room who ‘shared a queen / and left no stain’; the internet that, ‘like water, / transmits the smell of blood in all directions.’ This droll and formally promiscuous poet lets ‘desire // italicize our somberest sentiments.’ It’s hard not to love this nerdy, sexy, vulnerable first book. — Randall Mann

Reading James Davis’ Club Q reminds me of slipping, long ago, into that mysterious Houston bar Marfreless (which literally possessed no address): once inside the utterly dark, soft ambiance, you felt your way through its space to settle onto the most forgiving of couches, down stiff drinks, luxuriate in the most animated and revealing of conversations. Club Q is one of the funniest and sharpest books of poems I’ve read in a long time. James Davis possesses a killer intellect, and his formal chops are bar none. — Cate Marvin

In this incredible debut, James Davis catalogs the excesses and deficits of American culture, from the schlock of millennial childhoods (Fruitopia! Alpha-Bits! Street Fighter II!) to the confounding terms of our present moment, in which ‘creative is a noun.’ These ingenious poems tackle sticky questions about family and class, and what it means to be ‘queer / in a military town where cadets / count out football scores in pushups.’ They also celebrate letters and words themselves—the sheer abundance of language and the worlds it makes possible. Club Q is funny and wise, and it blew me away. — Caki Wilkinson

 

Two poems from James Davis’s Club Q

 

The Human Situation

Wednesday

I wake with the same erection I had during liftoff.
Cabin pressure, recycled air, a rhythmic, uterine rush.
My carry-on’s fat with Classics. My tray table buckles
under the Metamorphoses, page marked with boarding pass.
I’ve checked the Republic and stowed St. Augustine. I pray
for delayed landing and nurse a cran-apple cocktail.
The four-ounce plastic tumbler won’t stop sweating.

Below, the stark geometry of America’s midsection:
vast circular fields irrigated by a central pivot compass
and sliced into perfect sixths. Reddi-wip contrails.
Cauliflower cumulonimbi. Our shadow grazes the earth,
compartment by logical compartment, until it’s swallowed
by a larger shadow. Minor turbulence. A man tears a slit
into his package of nuts and empties it into his mouth.

Thursday

My sister and her husband have just returned from Istanbul.
She’s wearing a sequined hijab. His English is spotty.
The turkey, as always, is far too large. We pray over it.
Before dessert, my father produces a Porky Pig cookie jar
filled with legal pad scraps, a Bible verse handwritten on each.
We all draw our scrap, unfold it, read it aloud. Dad explains
what each one makes him thankful for. The little things.

Once the carcass fits into the refrigerator, we break out
Taboo, the Game of Unspeakable Fun.
If I want my team to guess sister, I cannot say apostate.
If I want my team to guess love, I cannot say cock,
lube, fabulous, lavender, roommate, or buddy.
The parents look over the children’s shoulders. Vice versa.
I hold the buzzer’s pink button until I’m told to stop.

Sunday

All flights canceled. On the news, a meager death toll:
three for the whole blizzard, all at the same time,
a mother and two sons retrieving supplies. Black ice.
Five-foot drift. The heat left on full blast
in their silver Escape. As usual, carbon monoxide,
the children first. California plates,
the locals cluck and switch back to the game.

I’ve warmed up to my old room’s tacked-up playbills,
the Mondrian imitation waffling over the headboard.
My professor has granted my request for an extension.
I remove a ceiling panel and browse my library: Freshmen,
Unzipped, a yellowing catalog (Abercrombie and Fitch).
Inside my senior yearbook, I’m told you’re going
places! Have a great summer! Never forget who you are!

 

 

White Chickens

Yeah right, replies so much. I depend upon myself, not your wheel, nor your polite chickens.
My love got lost at the Mineral Show and fell in with a flock of malachite chickens.

Even my grandmother has an iPhone. She texts rarely, hunting for the emoji juste.
Her daughter moved to a red state, bought a tractor, shoots coyotes who try to bite chickens.

So much depends upon history or, more broadly, Social Studies. My high-school rain dance
conjured only a happenstance of glitter and rare, collectible Rainbow Brite chickens.

Everyone’s crazy about protein these days. Every salad is a green meat-vehicle.
All these beautiful men at the gym strut like hypertrophied, hey-you-wanna-fight chickens.

Tonight’s special is served with a demi-glace of esoterica and simple syrup.
Oh, hi. I’m James, but you can call me So Much. See you at the White Party. Invite chickens.

 

 

Excerpts

Two poems from James Davis's Club Q

 

The Human Situation

Wednesday

I wake with the same erection I had during liftoff.
Cabin pressure, recycled air, a rhythmic, uterine rush.
My carry-on’s fat with Classics. My tray table buckles
under the Metamorphoses, page marked with boarding pass.
I’ve checked the Republic and stowed St. Augustine. I pray
for delayed landing and nurse a cran-apple cocktail.
The four-ounce plastic tumbler won’t stop sweating.

Below, the stark geometry of America’s midsection:
vast circular fields irrigated by a central pivot compass
and sliced into perfect sixths. Reddi-wip contrails.
Cauliflower cumulonimbi. Our shadow grazes the earth,
compartment by logical compartment, until it’s swallowed
by a larger shadow. Minor turbulence. A man tears a slit
into his package of nuts and empties it into his mouth.

Thursday

My sister and her husband have just returned from Istanbul.
She’s wearing a sequined hijab. His English is spotty.
The turkey, as always, is far too large. We pray over it.
Before dessert, my father produces a Porky Pig cookie jar
filled with legal pad scraps, a Bible verse handwritten on each.
We all draw our scrap, unfold it, read it aloud. Dad explains
what each one makes him thankful for. The little things.

Once the carcass fits into the refrigerator, we break out
Taboo, the Game of Unspeakable Fun.
If I want my team to guess sister, I cannot say apostate.
If I want my team to guess love, I cannot say cock,
lube, fabulous, lavender, roommate, or buddy.
The parents look over the children’s shoulders. Vice versa.
I hold the buzzer’s pink button until I’m told to stop.

Sunday

All flights canceled. On the news, a meager death toll:
three for the whole blizzard, all at the same time,
a mother and two sons retrieving supplies. Black ice.
Five-foot drift. The heat left on full blast
in their silver Escape. As usual, carbon monoxide,
the children first. California plates,
the locals cluck and switch back to the game.

I’ve warmed up to my old room’s tacked-up playbills,
the Mondrian imitation waffling over the headboard.
My professor has granted my request for an extension.
I remove a ceiling panel and browse my library: Freshmen,
Unzipped, a yellowing catalog (Abercrombie and Fitch).
Inside my senior yearbook, I’m told you’re going
places! Have a great summer! Never forget who you are!

 

 

White Chickens

Yeah right, replies so much. I depend upon myself, not your wheel, nor your polite chickens.
My love got lost at the Mineral Show and fell in with a flock of malachite chickens.

Even my grandmother has an iPhone. She texts rarely, hunting for the emoji juste.
Her daughter moved to a red state, bought a tractor, shoots coyotes who try to bite chickens.

So much depends upon history or, more broadly, Social Studies. My high-school rain dance
conjured only a happenstance of glitter and rare, collectible Rainbow Brite chickens.

Everyone’s crazy about protein these days. Every salad is a green meat-vehicle.
All these beautiful men at the gym strut like hypertrophied, hey-you-wanna-fight chickens.

Tonight’s special is served with a demi-glace of esoterica and simple syrup.
Oh, hi. I’m James, but you can call me So Much. See you at the White Party. Invite chickens.