Peter Davison 1928–
American poet and editor.
Davison's first book, The Breaking of the Day (1964), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. It contains themes and subjects which recur throughout much of his poetry: death, depression, spiritual isolation, and loss. The volume includes tributes to members of the confessional school of poetry with whom Davison was acquainted early in his career. A number of poems concern the late poet Sylvia Plath, with whom Davison was once romantically involved. In Half Remembered (1973), an autobiographical account of his unhappy childhood and his self-discovery through psychoanalysis and poetry, Davison provides insight into the psychosocial dynamics which shaped many young poets of the confessional movement after World War II. Critics have commended this volume for its intelligent and representational, rather than self-absorbed, stance.
Walking the Boundaries: Poems 1957–1974 contains a chronological arrangement of Davison's best poetry during this period. Critics note a discernible shift in his style and thematic emphasis. His earlier verse leans toward rigid formality and didacticism, while his later work is more meditative. Robert Frost is often mentioned as having the strongest influence on Davison's work. From Frost's poetry Davison learned to use nature as an apt metaphor for an ideal, harmonious human society. Davison's recent volume Barn Fever and Other Poems (1982) is considered by many critics to be his best collection. Much of the formality of his early poetry has been replaced by a more relaxed and confident association with the subject matter and an increasingly skillful use of nature imagery.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 3; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 5.)