May 2010
A review of

Never-Ending Birds

by David Baker

Central question: In rural Ohio, what is there left to love?
Best poem in prior collection, Midwest Eclogue: “Hyper-,” about his daughter’s ADHD; Works cited in notes (partial list): Virgil, Georgics, trans. Ferry; Stacy Hollander, American Radiance (on Shaker art); Cabeza de Vaca, Relación y Comentarios; Michael Wigglesworth, Meat Out of the Eater; David Rothenberg, Why Birds Sing; William Vaughan, Natural and Artificial Directions for Health; Representative sentence (about deer): “they nip the peaches, / and one bite ruins; / hazard every road with their running- // into-headlights / not-away; a / menace; plague; something should be done.”

David Baker will never be cool, and his poems admit it: he’s serious, sad, inescapably middle-aged in a rust-belt exurb, where he takes long walks in far-off fields and reads books about centuries-obsolete medicine: “Let this body taketh / away sorrow,” his poem “Resurrection Man” quotes; “Let it asswageth furie of the mind / with our hoard of bones.” When he’s not learning the Latin names of plants, or reading very old poetry, he thinks about how to be a good father, and how to get over (if he can ever get over) what seems to be a recent divorce. Being a husband was hard work, and he loved it; being a former husband is harder, and worse, and the resulting resignation and bitterness make this book sharper and stronger than the calmer poems that Baker has written before.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt’s book of essays, Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry, is out now!

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