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David Baker

David Baker’s latest book of poems, Never-Ending Birds (2009), was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize. He has received fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pushcart Foundation. He is poetry editor of The Kenyon Review and holds the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University.


Blue Shift

Fall 2014 | Poetry

The day moon the
                                     spirit of the morning


Fall 2014 | Poetry

He walks back from the
                                         window in half-shadow

a half-shade himself

Song of Sanity

Spring 2012 | Essays

Walt Whitman was a poet of hope and encouragement, but his greatest poem is bleak at heart, ripped bloody, and shredded with despair. He was our verbal cheerleader, our avid egoist as well as our most enthusiastic inclusionist.

Five Odes on Absence

Spring 2012 | Poetry

And if purple’s the new black as Vogue says
(according to their latest ad-by-tweet,
it s the seasons thing), perhaps erasure’s
our poetry du jour.

“I’m Nobody”: Lyric Poetry and the Problem of People

Winter 2007 | Essays

The problems with people have provided poets with their subjects for millennia. In our own investigations of three primary lyric modes, we have previously considered the love poem (and the problems of passion, heartbreak, betrayal), the elegy (and the problems of death and loss or forgetting), and the ode (and the problems of social rhetoric and lyric progression).

Elegy and Eros: Configuring Grief

Spring 2005 | Essays

I want to consider the configuration of the elegy, particularly the lyric elegy of the American 19th century, for I think it is a creature unto itself. At hand is the problem of Walt Whitman's great poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.” I want first to remind us of the complex narrative structure of Whitman’s poem for his beloved deceased, and to unpack the poem’s dense sets of images, stories, locations, and most important, its figures. As I intend the term, a figure is not just a body, a human figure; and not just a trope or metaphor, a figure of speech; but also a number, a mathematical figure. Next, I will relate this poem to another central 19th-century American elegy, Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death.” Finally I will propose a paradigm shift in our thinking, and reading, about the American elegy.

The Second Person

Winter 1998 | Poetry

The beautiful athletes on the white beach
work out in unison for the camera
this morning, their muscle clothes the colors
of berries, of bright flags and fields growing,


Winter 2004 | Poetry

 A short ride in the van, then the eight of us 
   there in the heat—white shirtsleeves sticking,
the women's gloves off—fanning our faces.