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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 PhD 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 Scavenger Loop (W. W. Norton, 2015), 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 says, "[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.

A resident of Granville, Ohio, he is currently a Professor of English and the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University, where he serves as poetry editor of The Kenyon Review.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Scavenger Loop (W. W. Norton, 2015)
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)
After the Reunion (University of Arkansas, 1994)
Sweet Home, Saturday Night (University of Arkansas, 1991)
The Truth about Small Towns (University of Arkansas, 1998)
Haunts (Cleveland State University, 1985)
Laws of the Land (Ahsahta/Boise State University, 1981)

Prose

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

Forced Bloom

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 least? 
Last night, the man in the recessed doorway, 
homeless or searching for something, or sought—
all he needed was one hand and quiet. 
The city around him was one small room. 
He leaned into the dark portal, gray 
shade in a door, a shadow of himself. 
His eyes were closed. His rhythm became him. 
So we have shut our eyes, as dead or as 
other, and held the thought of another 
whose pleasure is need, face over a face ... 

2. 

It hurts her to use her hands, to hold 
a cup or bud or touch a thing. The doctors 
have turned her burning hands in their hands. 
The tests have shown a problem, but no cause, 
a neuropathology of mere touch. 
We have all made love in the dark, small room 
of such need, without shame, to our comfort, 
our compulsion. I know I have. She has. 
We have held or helped each other, sometimes 
watching from the doorway of a warm house 
where candletips of new growth light the walls, 
the city in likeness beyond, our hands 
on the swollen damp branch or bud or cup. 
Sometimes we are most ourselves when we are 
least, or hurt, or lost, face over a face—. 
You have, too. It's your secret, your delight. 
You smell the wild scent all day on your hand. 

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. 

by this poet

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
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,
2
poem

        urchins spread. They want enough room
on the seabed, along the black basaltic
jet of offshore reef, sun-pied, out-swept, or
down along the darker overcrowded

urchin barrens, to quiver their hundred-
plus spines and not encroach or be encroached
or preyed upon, pulled, ripped

2