Donald Davie (DAY-vee) was a highly respected man of many letters. In addition to his poetry, he published numerous works of literary theory and criticism, including important books on Ezra Pound and Thomas Hardy, and an abundance of material on various British, American, and European authors. He also wrote several cultural histories that discuss the impact of religious dissent on culture and literature and edited a number of anthologies of Augustan and Russian poetry; in addition, he published biographical essays and translated Russian poetry.
Donald Davie’s high reputation in the United States is apparent in the many awards and other academic appointments he received. He was the recipient of three awards in 1973—a Guggenheim Fellowship, an honorary fellowship at St. Catharine’s College in Cambridge, and a fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1978, he earned a doctorate in literature from the University of Southern California and was made an honorary fellow at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
Dekker, George, ed. Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1983. Provides a good sampling of criticism on Davie.
Everett, Barbara. “Poetry and Christianity.” London Review of Books, February 4-18, 1982, 5-7. Everett stresses the reticence of Davie’s poetry. Davie avoids strong displays of emotion, enabling him to concentrate on stylistic effects. At his best, as in Three for Water-Music, his poetry is superlative. He strongly emphasizes the values of the English countryside and defends an ideal of Christian civilization that he regards as in decline. Many of his best effects are understated and tacit, although he often begins a poem with a sharp phrase.
Fowler, Alastair. A History of English Literature. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987. Fowler relates Davie to the other Movement poets such as Robert Conquest and Philip Larkin. Davie’s poetry stresses local themes and avoids difficulty. The value of plain, strong syntax is rated very high by Davie, but less so, one gathers, by Fowler. Davie avoids foreign influences and adopts a no-nonsense attitude toward the problem of how poetry relates to the world. Fowler rates him below Larkin and appears to dislike the Movement poets.
Jacobs, Alan. “Donald Davie: 1922-1995.”...
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