A sweeping achievement from a poet whose "rhythms are as alive to the roll and tang of syllables on the tongue as they are to the circulation of blood and sap" (Rosanna Warren, Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize citation).
David Baker, acclaimed for his combination of “visionary scope” (Gettysburg Review) and “emotional intensity” (Georgia Review), is one of contemporary poetry’s most gifted lyric poets. In Swift, he gathers poems from eight collections, including his masterful latest, Scavenger Loop (2015); the prize-winning, intimate travelogues of Never-Ending Birds (2009); and the complications of history and home in Changeable Thunder (2001). Opening the volume are fifteen new poems that continue Baker’s growth in form and voice as he investigates the death of parents, the loss of homeland, and a widening natural history, not only of his beloved Midwest but of the tropical flora and fauna of a Caribbean island.
Together, these poems showcase the evolution of Baker’s distinct eco-poetic conscience, his mastery of forms both erotic and elegiac, and his keen eye for the shifting landscapes of passion, heartbreak, and renewal. With equal curiosity and candor, Baker explores the many worlds we all inhabit―from our most intimate relationships to the wider social worlds of neighborhoods, villages, and our complex national identity, to the environmental community we all share.
With his dazzling formal restlessness and lifelong devotion to landscapes both natural and human on full display, David Baker demonstrates why he has been called “the most expansive and moving poet to come out of the American Midwest since James Wright” (Marilyn Hacker).
"[Baker''s] work evinces the moral courage of keeping still in the landscape. . . . He is heir to such writers as Henry David Thoreau . . . and Robert Frost. . . . To read Baker''s poems collected in this way is to appreciate the full range of their formal resources, their attunement to cycles and processes rather than to mere outcomes and effects."
The New Yorker
"With each poem delicately and sturdily crafted, this collection creates one of the great spaces in American poetry."
Booklist (starred review)
"No one writes with a more acute attention to the immediate world than David Baker, but his relish of particulars is always subject to a broader meditation that looks behind and ahead. If his large concern is nature, he should not be pigeonholed as an ecological or a pastoral poet. He is not only a poet of exacting, often scientific intelligence, but a poet of the heart…To read the whole of
Swift is to witness more than thirty years of exquisite artistry. David Baker is one of our finest poets."
Rodney Jones, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Elegy for the Southern Drawl and Village Prodigies
"‘The soft pewter sky sets off the black / checkmark bodies of the birds as they skitter,’ writes David Baker, and so background and foreground, stillness and motion are harnessed to describe an outer landscape that also delineates an inner, charged landscape. David Baker’s new and selected poems reveal his keen imagination and the formal mastery that infuse his emotionally resonant work."
Arthur Sze, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Compass Rose
Swift gives us the exquisite ear of a poet laid over the precise eye of a naturalist. With Bishop’s thick descriptive texture and Merwin’s attention to vanishing, David Baker listens to the density of being…Baker has the naturalist’s intimacy with cycles of death and decay, but he is just as attentive to forces of disappearance in technology and contemporary life. The deep and sweeping power of these poems comes from showing us our own grief, our own loss of interconnectedness, and nature’s capacity to offer us ways back into presence. They are full of everything I value most: humility, wonder, and a heartbreaking love for the world."
Joanna Klink, author of Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy
David Baker’s many honors include fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Poetry editor for the
Kenyon Review and a professor at Denison University, Baker lives in Granville, Ohio.