David Baker Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Aside from his poetry, David Baker has published a book of criticism about poetry for the University of Arkansas Press: Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary Poetry (2000). More than a decade of critical essays and reviews about the work of modern American poets are included in this collection. Baker edited Meter in English: A Critical Engagement (1996), written by and for practicing poets.

The poem “Trees in the Night” was translated into French for the Belgium magazine Inédit in 1993. Baker’s work has appeared in a variety of anthologies as well as literary magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, American Scholar, and Poetry.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

David Baker has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Society of Midland Authors. He has been honored with a Pushcart Prize and Mid-America Review’s James Wright Prize for Poetry. He was selected the 1991 poet of the year by the Ohio Poetry Association. He won the Ohioana Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award in 1998 and the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry in 1999 for The Truth About Small Towns. Baker was awarded a student fellowship in 1989 to the famed Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and was named a member of its faculty in 2001. He has participated in numerous national writers’ conferences and judged national poetry contests, including those sponsored by the Kenyon Review, where he became poetry editor. Baker has been a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the advisory boards of the literary journal Pleiades and Zoo Press, publisher of emerging poets, playwrights, and essayists.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Collins, Floyd. “Transience and the Lyric Impulse.” Gettysburg Review 12, no. 4 (Winter, 2000): 702-719. After providing a definition and brief discussion of lyric poetry, Collins reviews the work of three contemporary American poets, including Baker, who, Collins says, captures everyday life in well-crafted lyric poems that reclaim personal history. The basis for his discussion is Baker’s The Truth About Small Towns.

Dobberstein, Michael. Review of Laws of the Land. Chariton Review (Spring, 1983). Dobberstein reviews Baker’s first book in considerable detail, relating Baker’s poetry to the work of William Bartram, calling the poems a tribute to Bartram’s spirit. The reviewer finds a solitude and stillness in the poet’s voice.

Genoways, Ted. “Our Town.” Review of The Truth About Small Towns. Boston Book Review (May, 1999). The reviewer examines several poems, quoting them at length to illustrate Baker’s technical skill. Genoways comments on Baker’s graceful and elegant love poems.

Kitchen, Judith. “For the Moment: Essential Disguises.” Review of Sweet Home, Saturday Night. Georgia Review 46, no. 3 (Fall, 1992): 554-572. Kitchen praises the display of technical skill and postmodern sensibility she finds in Sweet Home, Saturday Night. Explaining how all of the poems in the book lead to the title poem, Kitchen remarks that Baker’s poetry unifies many aspects of the contemporary self.

Lea, Sydney. “Aging White Men.” Southern Review 30, no. 4 (Autumn, 1995): 957-973. Lea carefully distinguishes the poems that are in his view the strongest in After the Reunion—he calls the title poem “near-perfect”—explaining that Baker has a distinct voice in a consumerist culture and is “on the cusp of major achievement.”

Reiter, Thomas. Review of Haunts. Quarterly West (Spring, 1986). Reiter points out that Baker’s poetry deals with the personal and the familial, and that this collection is “direct and radiant.”

Steinman, Lisa M. “So What Is Poetry Good For?” Review of Midwest Eclogue, by David Baker; Self-Pity, by Susan Hahn; Into It, by Lawrence Joseph; The Hoopoe’s Crown, by Jacqueline Osherow. Michigan Quarterly Review 45, no. 3 (Summer, 2006): 544-661. Extensive review of Baker’s work notes his themes of flux and nature.