Denison University’s 178th Commencement took place on Saturday, May 18. Watch the ceremony in its entirety including commencement keynote speaker Jennifer Garner ’94.
GRANVILLE, Ohio—David Baker, poet and professor of English at Denison University, gathers poems from eight of his collections together with 15 new poems in his upcoming collection, Swift: New and Selected Poems. The collection explores issues of identity and the natural world as it uncovers his evolution as a poet, with the oldest poems dating from 1982.
Assembling this collection was a long and at times challenging process for Baker, and required some difficult decisions. Baker’s aim was for this book to be the most representative of all his books. “This collection is different from the others,” he says. “It’s the book I’ve been working on my whole life.”
“It was eerie to see what stayed the same through the years,” he says. “I sat down with the pages spread out, and while moving them around, I saw something like the ‘self’ emerge.” Baker’s upbringing in the rural Midwest and affection for the natural world have remained central to his voice throughout his years as a poet.
Swift shows Baker’s growth as a poet. “I have become more careful in writing as I’ve become more carefree about subject matter,” he says. “I don’t censor myself like I used to,” he says, seeing his strengths and weaknesses more clearly while working on this collection. “You make these discoveries after the fact.”
In a Tupelo Quarterly interview with former student Victoria Chang, Baker outlines how his work as a teacher and a poet intersect. “Teaching is one of the most honorable ways to be among people,” he says. “The exchange of student and teacher is potentially life-changing, and always full of hope.” Some of Baker’s most critical work was inspired by conversations with students in his classrooms.
Although Baker is currently on sabbatical, he comes into his office at Denison to work. “Denison is a great place to be an artist and a teacher, and to learn from students,” he says. “I’m grateful to be here.”
“My advice to aspiring writers is to get out of your own way, read everything, and build upon the work of others,” he says. “Don’t be in a hurry, it takes a long time.”
Currently, Baker is working on editing a book of eco-poetry, writing essays, a new book of poems, and a book about teaching creative writing and poetry at Denison.
Swift: New and Selected Poems debuts on April 2. On April 8, Denison University will offer a reading by Baker, along with presentations by English professor Ann Townsend and the musical group ETHEL.