A poet's perspective on Central Ohio's conflicted relationship with nature

One role of a poet is to be alert, says David Baker. Over the past 35 years, the Denison University English professor has fulfilled that role dutifully, ruminating on the changing environment around him in Granville. The poet’s newest book, “Swift: New and Selected Poems,” collects his decades of observations, and here, Baker shares why he finds inspiration in his rural surroundings and how ecological perils drive his work.

“The Midwest feels like home to me. I recognize the trees and the birds and the grass and what grows here. My family … were from generations of farmers and miners and people who spent most of their lives in some way or another outdoors. … And so it seems natural to me, and in some way home to me, to write about not just people but all the other populations where I live—whether it’s deer and the fish and the trees, how the seasons pass, how people make their lives on the land. All of those things are significant to me.

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“And I look at the way we’re developing green spaces and wild spaces, I look at the way we’re farming, and I’m pretty discouraged and alarmed by a lot of the things that we’re doing to the green world. It’s corporate farming, chemical farming, agribusiness, the development of open spaces into suburbs and exurbs. I’m very discouraged about that. So I’m trying to write about that piece, too.

“As an early, young poet, I was, I guess, a describer of things, and now I am more of—not an alarmist so much as alert to how we live and the choices we make on the earth.”

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