David Baker

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(Poets and Poetry in America)

David Anthony Baker was born in Bangor, Maine, while his father, Donald Baker, was stationed at Dow Air Force Base. When his father accepted a job with the Missouri highway department, Baker moved along with his parents and younger brother Phil to Macon. His father was transferred to the state capital of Missouri, Jefferson City, in 1960. Baker spent his childhood camping and fishing. He went mushroom hunting and learned to identify sea fossils in limestone dynamited by the highway department. An athlete and popular student in high school, Baker cut a record with his fellow students in the jazz band. Baker, a guitarist, took courses in music theory, where he developed his ear for rhythm and harmony.

Gaining experience by playing locally at diners and clubs, Baker, still in high school, performed at the Kansas City Jazz Festival. Immediately following his 1973 graduation, he played banjo for two months in the musical Hello, Dolly! at the Cork County Opera House in Ireland and seriously considered a career as a musician.

In 1973, Baker enrolled in Central Missouri State University, where he took a course from English professor Bob Jones, who introduced him to poetry. After deciding to teach English in the high school from which he had graduated, Baker enrolled in every English course the university offered but one. Having taken several advanced placement courses in high school, Baker was able to complete his B.A. and M.A. degrees by 1977. A year earlier, he had published a prose poem, “Stories in the Land,” in Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State) University’s newly established Chariton Review. After receiving his master’s degree, Baker accepted a position teaching at Jefferson City High School and married Charlotte Miller in 1978. His early publication encouraged Baker to continue writing, but the demands of high school teaching did not leave him as much time as he needed to do so.

In 1979, Baker accepted a research fellowship at the University of Utah, attracted by its American studies and creative writing programs. At Utah,...

(The entire section is 505 words.)