An Evening with David Baker
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting and introducing David Baker, who read at the University Center for the Arts. The biography I gathered from Google and the book jacket of Scavenger Loop taught me that Baker is the author of fifteen books of poetry and five books of prose exploring topics such as the environment, meter, and lyric poetry. He has received fellowships and awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and The National Endowment of the Arts, among others. He teaches at Denison and has previously taught at Kenyon College, the University of Michigan, and the Ohio State University. And, while introducing undergraduates to poetry and working on his own writing, Baker also finds time to be the Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.
Beyond this impressive list of accomplishments, Baker’s poems in Scavenger Loop teach us to look more closely at the world around us and the cycles we are a part of. The poems in this newest collection are inventive and diverse—they move between unity and disorder, piece together scavenged bits of language, are lyric and narrative, and many are formed from fragments, splinters, and erasure. He writes compellingly of engineered corn, pesticides, and the ways in which we are complicit in the destruction of the natural world. As Baker writes in the title poem, we are all “rummaging each other’s trash heaps—.” We are part of the food chain, part of the feast. The breadth of this collection is staggering, looping outward, then inward, a poetry that urges us to shift our attention to place.
In thinking about Baker’s book and this introduction, I came across an interview David did with Paul Holler in 2010. His thoughtful words reminded me of our role as poets, and as humans, and I want to close by sharing them with you:
“part of my commitment as a poet is to remember; and to find language for some things (the animals, the growing things) that don’t speak for themselves. This is so basic to me and my imagination that it’s hard sometimes to think about what isn’t nature in my poems.”
It was a wonderful evening. I hope you’ll be able to join us November 5 for the next Creative Writing Program Reading Series event, the Writers’ Harvest Festival with poet Julie Carr and CSU’s newest faculty member and author, Andrew Altschul. The reading will take place at 7:30pm, in the University Center for the Arts Hatten Gallery. This event is part of an annual national festival aimed to support local food banks. Bring a nonperishable food item to qualify for our exciting raffle!