With Peter Davis's latest book, the third time makes a trend. Hitler's Mustache, Davis's first book, zoomed in on and dismantled the most infamous mustache in history. This was followed by Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!, a book of direct address prose poems whose titles all begin "Poem." The humor and obsessive quality found in these books returns with a slight twist in TINA.
"Tina" is Davis's obsession in this book, but this obsession is not singular. Tina is Davis himself, the muse, and the reader rolled into one. The first poem, "Making Out," details the sense of connection that Davis's speaker wishes to make throughout the book. It begins:
First, Tina, there is some kind of talk
or isolation or something that brings
us together. Then, in some
moment, we kiss.
There's a lot of uncertainty bundled up in these first four lines—the vagueness of "some kind of talk" along with the options the speaker gives us ("isolation or something") that brings the speaker and Tina together. These uncertainties are important because ultimately they are meaningless. It does not matter how the speaker and Tina get together, what's important is that they do and by some means kiss, one of the most intimate actions of which humans are capable.
And this is the hook. From the first lines of the first poem in the book, the reader is "lip-locked" with the text. But the speaker, and Davis, wants more than a kiss. "Making Out" unfolds as a kind of instruction manual on what the speaker plans to do with Tina (and the reader), to make the connection deeper. The speaker relays this yearning for connection as a teenager who's achieved enlightenment would, which flavors the poem with casual diction and humor:
When I reach your bra, I will feel
humbled and in awe so I will feel
your bra some. Then I will back my hand down
a little and come up again, this
time trying to wedge my fingers
between your bra and your skin.
Hopefully one of us
will unsnap your bra. Bras that unsnap
in front are easier to deal with. For this
reason, they are very sexy.
While the majority of the book seems to be Davis and his speakers attempting to form a meaningful relationship with Tina (and the reader), sometimes Tina appears as a speaker talking to himself, a different but equally important relationship. The last half of "Mother's Day" demonstrates this mode in a tender fashion:
Tina, I have been lucky
to be inside my wife
and watch my kids expand her belly
and see her explode without them.
She is not a skateboard but I am
free when I am sailing on her.
I look at her and the sea waits.
My Ollie, sometimes, is
perfect, Tina. When it is, she snaps into the air
and when I land
my feet are just glued.
These are the sentiments of a speaker who loves his wife, recounting his blessings in his head. A poem with this subject matter could easily become sentimental and tacky, but Davis's diction gives this poem a sprig of freshness, making it ripe for sharing with a loved one. These 'Tina as self" poems are sprinkled throughout the book and not one induces eye-rolling.
TINA is the third book in which Davis takes some practical poetry advice, writing about your obsessions, and turns it into poems that shake because they are so alive. Davis wants to establish and grow the connection between himself and Tina (the muse), himself and Tina (his inner life), and Tina (readers). Through his casual language and deadpan humor, Davis invites every potential reader into the world of TINA. Once the book is open, it's not long before the poems start putting the moves on the reader. And in this case, nothing could be sweeter.