Interferon Psalms: 33 psalms on the 99 names of God is the complete title of Luke Davies latest work of poetry and from this alone, we know we need to prepare to undertake a journey with Davies. Pulling from the Psalms, songs of praise, lament and repetition encompassing all elements of faith, Davies has created a dark, shuddering, majestic experience for the reader.
Following on from his uplifting, loved-up Totem, Interferon Psalms becomes a metaphysical suite of poems pushing onwards to the silence, the space inside where only words are left. In Davies’ attempt to make meaning of suffering his ‘inner ‘fearin’ becomes meaningful, resonant for all of us. The swooping, whooping energy of his images and the heartbreaking minutiae of his days spent in the grasp of the drug, interferon, used to clean out Hep C, (‘There was, what, plasma flowing through me?’) sent me crashing and tumbling and slowed my reading.
From the Cormac McCarthy quote from Cities of the Plain Davies uses as the epigraph (Cities of the Plain being my favourite McCarthy novel) to the almost peace he finds with his God, his past, his blood, Interferon Psalms engulfed my senses for the week it took me to work through my first reading. The work is ambitious and almost reckless in its submission to ideas, to poetry, to life and to death. My experience of reading this slim (120 pages) book of poetry is unparalleled in emotional intensity and the book has become an inspiring and haunting touchstone for me.
There are also clear moments of insight into writing and what, where, why words emerge and as a writer, I found a number of these transforming for my own writing process. However, while Davies is a master of life and suffering and poetry and words, it is the luminous humanity lying underneath his words that will bring me back to re-read Interferon Psalms. Everyone should read this contemporary liturgy and stumble through the humour, the blackness of guilt and remorse, the light of hope where there should be none nor none deserved, for themselves. Make your own discoveries and disavowals. It is a beautiful, exciting and deeply affecting work.
‘I returned to the poem, the one true place.’
Listen to an interview with Davies on The Book Show here where he talks about the writing and the architecture of the poems.