C.S. Lewis' wife, Joy Davidman, wrote 45 love poems to him, scholar says

by Kelly Ledbetter |

(eerdmans.com)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Christian Examiner) – In this first book-length critical study of the writings of Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis scholar and Montreat College professor Don W. King offers readers an evaluation of Davidman in terms of herself, rather than as many know her — the wife of C.S. Lewis.

I targeted the book for both popular readers — including those who only know Davidman because of her marriage to C. S. Lewis — and scholars. The former will enjoy learning more about the person who won Lewis’s heart, while the latter will find that Davidman deserves much more critical attention than she has garnered up until this point.
- Don W. King

Yet One More Spring: A Critical Study of Joy Davidman, published Sept. 5, presents Davidman as a woman of letters by examining her poetry, critical projects, correspondence, movie scripts, novels, and unfinished works.

"I decided to write this book because there was no book-length study of Davidman as a writer," King said in an interview by his publisher. Despite her critical acclaim, he said, "no one had done a scholarly study of her work. Since I believe she is a very good writer, I felt her work deserved critical attention."

For the literary scholar, Yet One More Spring satisfies with its extensive and authoritative analysis and contextualization of Davidman's writings. For the reader who knows of Davidman via Lewis, King explores the relationship, making clear the lines that linked the minds and hearts of two deeply important Christian writers.

Douglas Gresham, the son of Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis, endorsed King's project: "Renowned as a scholar of my stepfather C. S. Lewis's work, Don King has long been fascinated and intrigued by my mother's writings," Gresham wrote. "An amazing portrait of a complex, extremely intelligent, deeply emotional, strong and courageous, yet emotionally fragile woman creeps out of the pages of this book."

ABOUT JOY DAVIDMAN

The title of Yet One More Spring is taken from a poem in Davidman's award-winning collection Letter to a Comrade, which won her the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1938 and the Russell Loines Award for Poetry in 1939.

As King's work is arranged chronologically, the story of Davidman's life and times is a necessary and integral part of understanding the impact of her works.

Joe R. Christopher, coauthor of C. S. Lewis: An Annotated Checklist of Writings, wrote a review of the biographical importance of King's study. "Secular Jew, then Communist, then married with children, then Christian, then married to C. S. Lewis—all of these metamorphoses Don King traces in this book, evaluating her writing throughout."

By using her writing as a platform to discuss her life and relationships, King reveals Davidman's priorities and values, which evolved drastically over time.

"Davidman was a poet first and near the last, and a poet best," Christopher wrote. "King has built the foundations for any future evaluations of her as writer."

ABOUT DON KING

A lifelong scholar of the life and times of C.S. Lewis, King has published numerous books and articles about Lewis and his influences, including poet Ruth Pitter and Davidman herself.

In response to a question about challenges he faced in writing Yet One More Spring, King said, "The biggest challenge was that once I decided to write the book in 2005, I was waylaid by what my research uncovered. In gathering material for the book, I was struck by the power, beauty, and insights of her letters."

He published a collection of her letters, Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman, in 2009.

Then in 2010, while King was still working on Yet One More Spring, Douglas Gresham discovered more of his mother's papers in the house of her close friend. Once these became available to King, he was able substantially to add to his portrayal of the richness and variety of Davidman's writing.

A cornerstone of King's book is chapter eight, "A Naked Tree: Joy Davidman's Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis (1952-1956)." His analysis of the 45 love poems reveals the complex relationship between the two people during a period of time when their spiritual struggles and victories were little known to scholars.

Throughout the study, King's admiration for Davidman's literary achievement is evident. "I believe the quality of Davidman's poetry may heighten her status as a twentieth-century American writer," he said, hoping that his book would contribute to her being better appreciated.

Readers of King's study will share his appreciation for Davidman as a Christian writer who sought and found truth.