Winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize from Sarabande Books, Index of Haunted Houses is an investigation of longing and belonging, of haunting as a mode of living, of history as a congress of ghosts clamoring for attention through a bad telephone connection. This is a stunning debut — one that will surprise, convince, and, most of all, delight.
Praise for Index of Haunted Houses
“Hypervigilant, fidgety, and frightened as it should be, Index of Haunted Houses nonetheless shows us how to rake through the rubble for what we might still rebuild with, and in its consummate achievement, generates flashes of much heretofore unseen beauty, unleashing phrases that ‘arc like / swans in (the) cochlea’s / cul-de-sac.’”
“The reader finds herself in America’s afterlife, with Ma Bell’s pre-automation telephone operators. This is the elegant lyricism of ‘too late,’ calling ‘Ladies please wake up. I want to try again.’”
“Adam O. Davis has written a brilliant book about our ghosts—personal, political, mythic, lyrical and yet very real. He documents and chronicles the musics of the unsaid, melodies unheard. There is America in these pages and there is also childhood, parenthood, a rhythm and nuance of being. I love this music.”
“From ‘the body of New Jersey’ to ‘the desert/like a house of belief,’ the poems of Index of Haunted Houses traverse the entirety of time and space that we call American. In this book, Adam O. Davis means for language as precise as ‘ledgers lavish with loss,’ to lead us to the place within us where history meets landscape. This is a brilliant debut.”
“Time and again I was pulled in, kept close to the collisions between the self and the passage of time which populate the poems. The beauty of the language engenders intimacy. The reader easily steps into the text. The wonderful imagination of this poet reminds us the mind—lyric space—is an astonishing nexus.”
"This is a collection of stark witness and testimony, with a voice that manages to sing."
"Davis’s Index of Haunted Houses...is part exploration, part exhumation, part exorcism, part easement. Each poem takes on different tones and personalities, revealing new layers with each reading. The book is a ghost readers will carry with them for days, and possibly years, after their first encounter."
"[Davis'] words tip-toe through their subjects, lifting objects & ideas up w the tip of a pencil; shining light into neglected corners, & as a result truly memorable phrases emerge...but when his reason slips, lines turn suddenly uncanny, revelatory, so that his mastery discloses itself as born out of inner necessity rather than pathological fear. Davis is a poet of delicate intensities."
"Index of Haunted Houses is a book that wants to make something out of the relics of the past, stretching across a fading American landscape trying to find the remnants of life that America seems to have lost. Ultimately, the collection is made of vestiges of the past: places the world’s forgotten, people that it’s left behind, haunted landscape after haunted landscape. But, like any good ghost story, Index of Haunted Houses leaves just enough room for readers to investigate for themselves."
"[Davis'] poems are perfectly dense, lyrically open and wonderfully precise, offering not a single wasted word, space or image."
"ADAM O. DAVIS’ brilliant debut is an American ghost tour that induces paroxysms of weeping, melancholia, joy, and bewilderment. Ruin and loss become as lively as the ghosts in their demand for a place in Americana."
"A debut collection of prose poetry, Davis tackles themes generally reserved for the annals of genre fiction. Everything from things that go bump in the night to disappearing and destroyed Bison, the pieces actualize how even the worst hauntings, the scariest monsters, carry their own nightmares and doubts."
—"15 New and Forthcoming Indie Press Gems” by Michael Seidlinger, Publishers Weekly
"A travelogue of haunted houses. Ghost prose poems. Foggy, nostalgic fragments that feel like both erasure and haiku. I bought this collection after hearing Davis read and discuss (in particular how he wanted to include a book within a book). This collection is one to read once the sun goes to sleep."
—"Favorite Authors (and Their Books) That I Read in 2020," Neon Pajamas
"In Davis’ debut poetry collection, Index of Haunted Houses, there is a ghost in every living room and a skeleton in every closet. Ghosts of lost technologies and underwater mortgages. Skeletons of half-built subdivisions, of recliners decomposing in junkyards, of cars abandoned by drivers who can’t remember where in the world they thought they were going. Your ghosts. My skeletons. Our monsters. In Index of Haunted Houses, they are all present and eager to tell their tales of ruin and the occasional redemption, and Davis is just as ready to tell them."
—"Column: San Diego poet Adam O. Davis thinks it’s time to face our ghosts," The San Diego Union Tribune
"Davis' calculated use of language and form means that the varied scenes feel part of each other. We feel the literal word "bones" in one poem echoed by the bones in others. Desert cities, radios, coins used as metaphors, granaries and more come up not enough to be redundant, but often enough to feel like a sort of mantra. The mysteries in Davis' work are tail lights on the sides of highways in Ohio and the oilfields of Los Angeles, they're beasts in Nebraska, granaries in a small town or ghosts in unnamed cities....Like ghosts and summer-sticky road trips alike, Davis' work pairs a timeless and creepy America with hauntings, longing and curiosity."
—"Adam O. Davis’ ‘Index Of Haunted Houses’ Takes A Roadtrip Through An American Past," KPBS