"I am a work in progress," said Ashland poet and aspiring musician Aimee Takaya Davis.

"With each passing time that I write or perform a poem I hope to be doing better than last time and that extends to all aspects of my life," said Davis, an ever-shining beacon of self-discovery. "If I keep going at the rate I am I hope to have something published by 25." For a long time, Davis was that quiet girl at the open mics, listening vigilantly and always trucking around a mysterious yellow notebook, tightly shut by an army of blue-yellow bands.

But, when the day came that Davis opened that book, her mouth and her heart, her true performance became deafening. Her talents have been noted by veteran artists around the valley, as noted by award-winning poet, Slam master and open-mic host T-Poe. "Her work is passionate and insightful," said T-Poe. "Her future is bright!"

"In my poems I think there's dualism: a juxtaposition of beauty and misery, especially in my earlier work. Also a female craving for masculine expression and a desire for that to be accepted and to be acceptable," said Davis.

A gull on that bobbing, brilliant and sometimes black sea, Davis's work is passionate, blistering and unsentimental as she peels back the surface a little more.

Homeschooled, Davis found a lot of freedom to learn and create in her youth, less inhibited by convention. " the age of 12 I'd already read most of the classics; from Dickens to Dickinson, Poe, Steigner, Wilde, etc.," said Davis. "I think (at an early age) I got to realize interests and what suited me. I spent a lot of time at the public library. I started attempting to write a screenplay at age 8, and wrote a book of Seussian poetry. Strangely enough, there was a lot of Dickinson influence there as well, so there were darker elements that I wasn't even aware of at the time."

"(Growing up) I was encouraged whenever I wrote. I'd read things to neighbors or friends and they'd want copies or put them on their fridges," said Davis. "My aunt, in Germany, tried to get me published there."

Perpetually self-taught, Davis decided to teach herself the guitar one day and now performs. She decided to speak and became a heart-wrenching poetic troubadour. More than a self-taught artist &

in many ways Davis is, in fact, a self-taught work of art. Compassionate, beatific and dead-honest, not much could stop her from accomplishing and redefining any goal that strikes her fancy.

"I didn't start seriously writing poetry until high school. Then, of course, it was an emotional outlet. I read a lot of Sylvia Plath. I got really into Deviantart(.com) and that's where I met a lot of other writers. My major influences are poets from there and the local poets here whom I get to experience," said Davis. "I discovered Leonard Cohen through a priest in the Netherlands."

In addition, Davis has found ways of incorporating her passions into her work. In the Barnes Nobles children department, Davis gets to give some of her joy for words back. "It's great to see kids who want to read. It reminds me of being in the library as a kid, though of course, we must be more delicate here," quipped Davis. "It's also great interacting with the parents. The books my mom picked for me influenced me greatly and working with these parents and getting to help influence these kids makes me feel proud."

Davis also serves as the book vendor's Saturday morning Story Lady, reading to the children (and sometimes their parents) and designing activities. "I love it. It's the highlight of my work week," said Davis, who often dresses up for the event, though it's not required by her employer. "Oh, it gives me a chance to explore creative fashion techniques that the kids appreciate."

"A good book is one that not only pulls you into the characters' lives but also into their inner realms," said Davis. "A truly good book compels me to build or destroy something in my life, either a belief or something tangible. The power of that experience is that you can experience it anywhere with these pieces of paper in your hand rather than having to live that to glean it."

Presently, Davis is working on developing a children's poetry workshop to encourage and support positive youth self-discovery around the valley, and looks forward to the support of fellow local poets. Still learning herself, Davis welcomes input or interest in this program and can be reached at aimee.takaya@gmail.com