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March 2, 2007 AWP Conference, Atlanta, GA From the Academy Audio Archive

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 Feast

David Baker, 1954
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 cyst 
was not a cyst. One
      —small one, hard, its edges jagged— 
     like a snow ball. 

This one scared 
the house on-
     cologist into 
     lab work: stat.

Once the snow melts the birds 
will be back.
     Once
     many men were masked

in front of their
families. Were gunned down
     to shallow graves, together, there.
     Basra. Kaechon. East 

St. Louis, Illinois. Nowhere
we don’t know about  
     and nothing yet is done.  
     This is what we watch while

we wait.
Twelve little cysts 
     of snow in the red-
      bud. I watched each one, having 

counted, once more, and then one
more time, as
     the news reports reported
     and the cold early 

northern wind shook
out there the bare, still-budded small
     bush. Balls of crust shuddered
     in the bush.

Birds will be
back as 
     though nothing has happened. 
     I am here to report that
		
nothing happened. Except
the oncologist said, then, 
     benign.
     But now I hate 

the moon. Hate the scar,
though it shines 
     on her breast
     like the moon at my lips.

"The Feast" first appeared in The Boston Review. Copyright © 2009 by David Baker. From Never-Ending Birds by David Baker (W. W. Norton, 2009). Appears with permission of the author.

"The Feast" first appeared in The Boston Review. Copyright © 2009 by David Baker. From Never-Ending Birds by David Baker (W. W. Norton, 2009). Appears with permission of the author.

David Baker

David Baker

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

by this poet

poem
Yesterday a little girl got slapped to death by her daddy,
   out of work, alcoholic, and estranged two towns down river. 
America, it's hard to get your attention politely.
   America, the beautiful night is about to blow up

and the cop who brought the man down with a shot to the chops 
   is shaking hands,
poem
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
poem

At least there was a
                                             song   timorous of

wing-beat snowdrift ash
                                             of red horizon

then somewhere calling
                                             as under one’s breath

(I did not hope