Leopold’s Maneuvers

Winner of the 2003 Book Prize in Poetry

About the Book

In the venerable tradition of caregivers writing about the healing arts—a tradition peopled by the likes of Anton Chekhov, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Walker Percy, and Denise Levertov—Cortney Davis brings to poetry the experience, insight, and compassion of a nurse practitioner who daily confronts the unexpected frailties, passions, and power of the flesh.

Taking the body as her text, Davis crafts her poetry from the pains of labor and the joys of birth, the depredations of disease and the sustaining hope of recovery. She trains her clear, unflinching gaze on the unfolding scene—a woman shipwrecked with a stranger; an adult reinventing childhood; an ill woman rediscovering pleasure in her body; a nurse realizing, in one harrowing instant, that she is as vulnerable as her patients—unerringly finding the particular image, the human detail, that connects reader, writer, and subject with the world. Primal, compelling, intelligent, these poems show us how to see as clearly as the poet does, with empathy and grace.


You can read an excerpt from Leopold’s Maneuvers on the University of Nebraska Press website here.


“This amazing book by a nurse-practitioner and poet joins the world of illness in the human body with the celebratory magnetism of erotic encounters. These states always begin with the physical, human form; Davis has an uncanny ability to create complex panoramas from acts of healing and redemption. This is a skillful and unforgettable collection.”—Bloomsbury Review

“Davis is a poet and nurse practitioner whose poems unite flesh and spirit. Never flinching, she inquires into the creative, intimate venture of healing and being healed.”—Melanie Drane, Fore Word

“It’s relatively rare in this land of poets for there to be one in a profession unrelated to poetry. . . . Her medical life lends her poetry authority. . . . Davis’s clear sighted compassion is one of her strengths as a writer.”—Laurel Blossom, American Book Review

“Courtney Davis is someone you should know. . . . If your experience is anything like mine, reading poems like the ones in Leopold’s Maneuvers will give you pleasure and help you become a more insightful and compassionate healer.”—Veneta Masson, Advance for Nurse Practitioners

“This book is one I’ll return to, eager to be touched again by this writer’s unflinching gaze and willing vulnerability.”—Southwest Book Views

“Davis writes from the nurse practitioner viewpoint of the experiences she has encountered while dealing with death, healing, futility, hope, and a myriad of other frailties and passions in the human existence. This is not the typical touch-feely verse you might expect but rather a direct, non-flinching description of suffering and horrors we all, deep down, fear. . . . And yet, there is often hope of healing and recovery that is as much a part of the medical experience as is pain and futility. This book won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, and with good reason.”—Oklahoma Observer< “The poems in Cortney Davis’s astonishing new book Leopold’s ManeuversM grip us with the adroit, knowing hands of the wise woman. Whether tending to the battered woman whose face ‘is like a peach / left in the refrigerator drawer too long,’ or touching a dying surgical patient’s heart, noting ‘How clean the body was, split open,’ Davis unerringly and courageously addresses our suffering, and offers us the joyous possibility of healing.”—Rafael Campo, MD, author of The Healing Art: A Doctor’s Black Bag of Poetry

“The nurse-poet writing this collection doesn’t flinch from the horrors she sees, but neither can she ‘brush off horror like salt.’ Harsh and beautiful, these poems are acts of spiritual survival, one woman’s necessary testimony, one woman’s witnessing.”—Peggy Shumaker, author of Wings Moist from the Other World

“[Davis’s] work transcends all adjectives, locating itself in the complexity and mystery of human existence. These poems bypass poetic trends and leap directly in to the hard facts of birth, sex, and death.”—Jeffrey Skinner, author of Gender Studies

About the Author

Cortney Davis is a nurse-practitioner in Danbury, Connecticut. She is the author of I Knew a Woman: The Experience of the Female Body, published by Random House in 2001 and in paper by Ballantine Books in 2002. Her collection of poetry, Details of the Flesh, was published by Calyx in 1997. Her poetry has appeared in the journals Crazyhorse, Poetry, Witness, and others. Leopold’s Maneuvers takes the body – gorgeous, suffering, medicalized, mythologized, abused, and loved – as its central topic. Both harsh and beautiful, these poems are acts of spiritual survival, one woman’s necessary testimony and confession.