Luke Davies (b.1962) is a critically acclaimed poet, novelist, and screenplay writer. Davies was raised in the Sydney suburb of West Pymble, and studied Arts at the University of Sydney. His third volume Running With Light won the 2000 Judith Wright Poetry Prize, while his most recent collection, Totem, won the 2005 South Australian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry, the Grace Leven Poetry Prize 2004, The Age‘s Poetry Book of the Year Award and the overall Age Book of the Year Award. In 2004 Davies was also awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for Poetry. Davies has published three novels, Isabelle the Navigator, the bestselling Candy, subsequently made into a film for which he co-wrote the screenplay. He recently shot a short film, Air, which he wrote and directed, in West Texas.

Davies’ poetic voice is notable for its clarity and humour and its ability to achieve an engaging blend of popular culture and various strands of modern physics: cosmology, quantum mechanics, wave particles, chaos theory. A religious or mystical element in his work has also been commented upon-“decidedly Blakean”, says Cameron Woodhead, and “resonances … of Eckhart … as well as Blake”, according to Michael Brennan, though Brennan goes on to point out the physicality, even concupiscence, and worldliness which are everywhere apparent.

Indeed, love is a major and recurring theme and “Totem Poem” from his collection Totem, which Davies reads here, has been acclaimed as “a 40-page love poem that matches, for strength of vision, verbal mastery and emotive force, the love poetry of previous centuries” (Woodhead) as well as “one of the most impressive longer poems of the age” (Peter Porter). “Totem Poem” is an exuberant celebration of love in which the physical and the metaphysical, and indeed physics, are bound together, birds, monkeys, Hindu gods, the earth and sky, the lovers with their bodies and their desires.

As Michael Brennan concludes, “Davies’ poetry offers a coherent evocation of the evolution of primal fears – of death, loss and loneliness, of the meaninglessness of matter and existence, of the recurrent needs that can save or destroy us – into something as simple and infinitely complex as each moment shared and given, each moment recounted and experienced in its quantum of possibilities.”

Davies reads “Totem Poem” in a quietly incantatory manner, allowing the exuberance and vigour of the mood and imagery to speak for themselves.

Poems by Luke Davies

Books by Luke Davies



A Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year


Judith Wright Poetry Prize


Grace Leven Poetry Prize


Totem won The Age's Poetry Book of the Year Award


Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for Poetry


South Australian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry


Prime Minister's Literary Awards