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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). Swift: New and Selected Poems is forthcomming from W. W. Norton in 2019.

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


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)


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)

Storm Psalm

Dear darkness. Dear where we bow our heads in disbelief.
     Dear disbelief, hardly bow our heads and
hardly speak, so we sing, such words as darkness
     shows us how on days on end. So I sing it is
not hopeless. Hurry hurry. Nor faithless—to stand
     without faith, keeping open—. Now another
so they say, thus the trees utterly are still, and the wind is,
     and what wings there are utterly still in limbs
darkened above the barn. Bow down, for this darkness
     now above cedars. Smell of mint and tincture of
torn wood-pulp, or was that the last time, yes it was.
     Take shelter, take now cover take nothing
when it is time, for ye need no Thing but—. So I say
     the mighty voice upon the waters is, glory thundereth,
twists of ivy like leather scales along a body
     of the big limbs hanging, bearing down, to break.
Older than a door, older than a holding hand. His voyce
     breaks Cedars: breaks Cedars. The last time,
now lie in the doorway, in the tub, lie down, cover
     us with blankets. Yes hurry. Dear hurry. Dear
disbelief, Great are thy bowell-mercies Lord:
     after thy judgements—. Clap now a great wing
over the barn, the cedars, pelt now, rain now,
     or is that the last time coming wild, stones against
every pane breaking, is it the last, hail now whose
     particles breaking through as little toads, silver
fishes everywhere. Seek shelter—. What more
     do you need from me, it makes the forrest bare: take
the little ones quickly, bow down, great whirlwind
     in grit now, ice, excreate of stone and leaf-shred sound
of howling birds, so I say it is not faithless to lie
     in the doorway going down without faith, dear hurry
keeping open vigil at the site out of stillness out of
     darkness now the sudden breaking down, Dear wind—

Copyright © 2015 by David Baker. Used with permission of the author. “Storm Psalm” originally appeared in The New England Review.

Copyright © 2015 by David Baker. Used with permission of the author. “Storm Psalm” originally appeared in The New England Review.

David Baker

David Baker

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

by this poet

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

A slight wrinkle      on the pond           as he said


all that’s left of        this life is             what remains


for the next              three redwings      motionless now


atop cattails             are match tips        soon enough


to strike out

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,