Denison University Professors David Baker and Ching-chu Hu recently have received grants from the Ohio Arts Council, recognizing their excellence in the arts. Baker is the author of nineteen books of poetry and prose about poetry, and he served for many years as the poetry editor of The Kenyon Review. His new book, Whale Fall, is forthcoming this summer. Hu is an award-winning composer whose music has been performed nationally and internationally. He is the director of Denison’s Vail Series and founder of the TUTTI Festival for the arts.
Of eight recent poems included in his forthcoming book, Baker says, “They are part of a years-long poetry project about living in rural and small-town Ohio—living as neighbor, citizen, divorced parent, and one small part of a vast ecosystem. I see this book of poems is itself a hybrid — part memoir, part eco-poetry, part narrative, and wholly lyrical.“
Researching the poems, Baker conducted fieldwork with geologists, botanists, biologists, and water ecologists who are invested in advocating for the environment, both local and global. “These poems are at times focused on the micro-level, on my own backyard, on individual hummingbirds, fireflies, fossil beds, and old-growth trees; at times, more macro, they sweep across epochs, oceans, and into deep space,” he says.
Hu’s proposed composition, Please Remember Me, honors Danny Crothers, a young Marine from Newark, Ohio who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Hu references Crother’s letters contrasting his mundane home life with his current situation at war. “His words speak a truth about the unknown. It is easy for those outside of a real life battle to never understand what young men and women go through,” says Hu. “I want to help bring forth the final line of his poem, ‘All any soldier asks of you is ‘Please remember me.’”
“With my music, I strive to invoke feelings of understanding, of empathy, of compassion. My work often focuses on issues that are important to me, whether that be the environment, a personal struggle, or the life we live. I have never written a work using text from a veteran, but I wish to honor Danny Crothers and the men and women in our armed services through this work.”