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.
Swift: New and Selected Poems samples eight of his collections and adds a ravishing suite of new elegies for his parents. The volume affords a longitudinal view of a sensibility that is itself devoted to observing change over time ... His metaphors buckle to contain...extraordinary, delicate sight ... Baker’s poems swerve with tangents and reversals, and often move forward by branching out. Sometimes you feel the tension between the torrent of language and the rigid banks of his chosen stanza forms ... But Baker can also moderate tension to allow sentences and the effects they describe to unfold at their own pace ... Never a partisan of any single poetic school or creed, Baker is free to toggle between tactics of attention. His forms vary depending upon what his senses perceive: jagged and tense around a mountain lion, long and languid next to a butterfly.
[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?