Helen Joy Davidman was an American poet and writer. She won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1938 and the Russell Loines Award for Poetry in 1939. Her best known work, Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments, in 1954 with a preface by C. S. Lewis influenced her work and conversion.
About Joy Davidman in brief
Helen Joy Davidman was an American poet and writer. Often referred to as a child prodigy, she earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in English literature at age twenty in 1935. For her book of poems, Letter to a Comrade, she won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1938 and the Russell Loines Award for Poetry in 1939. She was the author of several books, including two novels. Her best known work, Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments, in 1954 with a preface by C. S. Lewis influenced her work and conversion. She died from metastatic carcinoma involving the bones in 1960. The relationship that developed between Davidman and Lewis has been featured in a television BBC film, a stage play, and a theatrical film named Shadowlands. In 1939, she was employed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for a six-month writing stay in Hollywood for a movie about Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. She wrote about the influence of these stories: \”They developed in me a lifelong taste for fantasy, which led me years later to C. S. Lewis, who in turn led me to religion\”. In 1951, she wrote: \”I was a well-brought-up, right-thinking child of materialism… I was an atheist and the daughter of an atheist\”. She was a member of the American Communist Party, and after becoming a member, she met and married her first husband and father of her two sons, William Lindsay Gresham, in 1942. After a troubled marriage, and following her conversion to Christianity, they divorced and she left America to travel to England with her sons.
In 1961, she published A Grief Observed under a pseudonym in 1961, from notebooks he kept after his wife’s death revealing his immense grief and a period of questioning God. Although much of her work reflected her politics during this period, this volume of poetry was much more than implied by the title of the title, and contained forty-five poems in traditional and free verse that were related to serious issues of the time such as the Spanish Civil War, the class structure and the inequalities of class structure. She later referred to herself at this time as being \”bookish, over-precocious and arrogant\”. After finishing high school at 14 years old, she read books at home until she entered Hunter College in the Bronx at the age of fifteen, earning a BA degree at nineteen. In 1936, after several of Davidman’s poems were published in Poetry, editor Harriet Monroe asked her to work for the magazine as reader and editor. Davidman resigned her teaching position to work full-time in writing and editing. During the Great Depression, several incidents, including witnessing the suicide of a hungry orphan jumping off a roof at Hunter College, are said to have caused her to question the fairness of capitalism and the American economic system. She was provided with a good education, piano lessons and family vacation trips.