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About this poet

David Baker was born in Bangor, Maine, on December 27, 1954. He was raised in Missouri and has spent more than forty years of his life in the Midwest.

Baker received degrees in English from Central Missouri State University before earning a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah in 1983.

His first collection of poems, Laws of the Land, was published by Ahsahta/Boise State University in 1981, followed by Haunts (Cleveland State University) in 1985. Since then, Baker has published several collections of poetry, including Never-Ending Birds (W. W. Norton, 2009), Treatise on Touch: Selected Poems (Arc Publications, 2007), Midwest Eclogue (W. W. Norton, 2005), Changeable Thunder (University of Arkansas, 2001), The Truth about Small Towns (1998), After the Reunion (1994), and Sweet Home, Saturday Night (1991).

Baker is also the author of three books of criticism: Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry (Graywolf, 2007), Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary Poetry (University of Arkansas, 2000), and Meter in English: A Critical Engagement (1996).

About Baker, the poet Linda Gregerson has said "[He] writes with the distilled, distinguished attentiveness only the finest poets can reliably command," and Marilyn Hacker has called him "the most expansive and moving poet to come out of the American Midwest since James Wright."

Among Baker's awards are fellowships and prizes from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Poetry Society of America, Society of Midland Authors, and the Pushcart Foundation.

He is currently a Professor of English and the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University and is a faculty member in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College.

Baker currently resides in Granville, Ohio, where he serves as Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Laws of the Land (Ahsahta/Boise State University, 1981)
Haunts (Cleveland State University, 1985)
Sweet Home, Saturday Night (Arkansas, 1991)
After the Reunion (Arkansas, 1994)
The Truth about Small Towns (Arkansas, 1998)
Changeable Thunder (University of Arkansas, 2001)
Midwest Eclogue (W. W. Norton, 2005)
Treatise on Touch: Selected Poems (Arc Publications, 2007)
Never-Ending Birds (W. W. Norton, 2009)


Prose

Meter in English: A Critical Engagement (Arkansas, 1996)
Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary Poetry (Arkansas, 2000)
Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry (Graywolf, 2007)

The City of God

David Baker, 1954
Now we knelt beside 
the ruined waters 
as our first blood, 
our bulb-before-bloom, 
unfurled too early 

in slender petals. 
Now we were empty. 
Now we walked for months 
on softer shoes and 
spoke, not quite with grief. 

This morning four deer 
come up to the yard 
to stand, to be stunned, 
at the woods' edge 
on their hoof-tips. Their 

ears twist like tuners, 
but they stay for minutes,
minutes more, while 
we are shadows behind 
windows watching them 

nip at the pine bark, 
nibble some brown tips 
of hydrangea. It's 
been a mean, dry winter. 
The last time I prayed—
 
prayed with any thought 
of reply, any 
hope of audience— 
I sat in a church 
and the city smell 

of lilac, fumes from 
the bus line, filled me. 
The joys of the body 
are not the sins 
of the soul. 

     Who knows 
how many have come 
to be with us? We
knelt, not as in prayer, 
beside the toilet 

and watched the first one 
leave us utterly—.
They were deer. Now they 
are fog. 
     Now the wind 

pulls back though the trees.
We know it will 
be this way always 
—whatever fades—
and the dreadful wake. 

From Changeable Thunder by David Baker. Copyright © 2001 by David Baker. Appears with permission of the University of Arkansas Press. All rights reserved.

From Changeable Thunder by David Baker. Copyright © 2001 by David Baker. Appears with permission of the University of Arkansas Press. All rights reserved.

David Baker

David Baker

David Baker was born in Bangor, Maine, on December 27, 1954. He

by this poet

poem

See the pair of us
                              Raining and morning

the first soft ashes

                              along the high road

running the far ridge
                              of pines ripped wild to

timbers by storming

poem
1.

Such pleasure one needs to make for oneself. 
She has snipped the paltry forsythia 
to force the bloom, has cut each stem on 
the slant and sprinkled brown sugar in a vase, 
so the wintered reeds will take their water. 
It hurts her to do this but she does it. 
When are we most ourselves, and when the
poem
The moon tonight is
the cup of a
     scar. I hate the moon.
     I hate—more—that scar. My love waited

one day, then half
the next. One 
     cyst drained of fluid that looked,
     she said, like icing for

a cake. Red-
laced, she said, gold,
      tan, thick, rich. Kind of
      beautiful.

One