poem index

March 2, 2007AWP Conference, AtlantaFrom 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)

Patriotics

David Baker, 1954
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, dribbling chaw across his sweaty shirt,
and pointing cars across the courthouse grass to park. 
   It's the Big One one more time, July the 4th,

our country's perfect holiday, so direct a metaphor for war, 
   we shoot off bombs, launch rockets from Drano cans,
spray the streets and neighbors' yards with the machine-gun crack 
   of fireworks, with rebel yells and beer. In short, we celebrate.

It's hard to believe. But so help the soul of Thomas Paine,
   the entire county must be here--the acned faces of neglect,
the halter-tops and ties, the bellies, badges, beehives,
   jacked-up cowboy boots, yes, the back-up singers of democracy

all gathered to brighten in unambiguous delight
   when we attack the calm and pointless sky. With terrifying vigor 
the whistle-stop across the river will lob its smaller arsenal
   halfway back again. Some may be moved to tears.

We'll clean up fast, drive home slow, and tomorrow
   get back to work, those of us with jobs, convicting the others 
in the back rooms of our courts and malls--yet what
   will be left of that one poor child, veteran of no war

but her family's own? The comfort of a welfare plot,
   a stalk of wilting prayers? Our fathers' dreams come true as 
   nightmare.
So the first bomb blasts and echoes through the streets and shrubs:
   red, white, and blue sparks shower down, a plague

of patriotic bugs. Our thousand eyeballs burn aglow like punks. 
   America, I'd swear I don't believe in you, but here I am,
and here you are, and here we stand again, agape.

From Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America, edited by Virgil Suárez and Ryan G. Van Cleave, published by the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by Virgil Suárez and Ryan G. Van Cleave. All rights reserved.

David Baker

David Baker

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

by this poet

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
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