David Baker, acclaimed for his combination of 'visionary scope' (Gettysburg Review) and 'emotional intensity' (Georgia Review), gathers poems from eight collections to showcase the evolution of Baker’s distinct eco-poetic conscience.
Baker’s would be a poetry of a place except that the place is general, perhaps anywhere from Maine to the Midwest and out to Oregon that is on the edge of the rural. This place is a space for the entire life cycle of nonhumans and for the anxieties of observant humans ... With each poem delicately and sturdily crafted, this collection creates one of the great spaces in American poetry.
[Baker] can lay down an elegant line when he wants to, but he favors an authenticating roughness to a consoling smoothness; when euphony and precision are at cross-purposes in his writing, euphony yields ... Baker is both an autobiographical poet and one obsessed with ephemerality, which makes the book’s reverse chronology curiously affecting: Parents die and then decline. A marriage ends, then flourishes. A child grows younger. Her parents decide not to have a child yet. It’s as though the book’s structure were another protest against time’s passage and the world’s degradation ... All of Baker’s poems are rich in observation, imagination and memory. But it’s syntax that allows him to synthesize those elements, and to catch his own mind in the act of doing so.
Baker’s poetic universe is a hushed, melancholy and at times ghostly place, haunted both by attachments to the past and by anxiety about its increasingly uncertain future ... Baker’s poems remind us that nature poetry can never be old-fashioned, because nature is never old-fashioned; it is, indeed, not even the same from one moment to the next. His writing is guided by a fundamental question: How do we understand nature in a world in which nature is no longer stable, in which anything we say about it is likely to be overturned or falsified by tomorrow’s breaking news?