David Baker’s new book Whale Fall, published by W. W. Norton & Company, is a poetry collection that operates on both a macro and micro level. As Baker’s poetry delves into global ecosystems, it also delves into his personal life. His masterful ability to blend these themes is apparent even early on in the book. His poem “Mullein,” the second in the collection, relates the scientific names of plants to the intimate nicknames Baker’s father gave to friends and family.
Whale Fall is filled with scientific terminology. In fact, the title itself is the name of a particular phenomenon. As Baker explains in his interview with Renee Shea in World Literature Today, a whale fall is an “oceanographic term that describes three stages of [a whale’s] death and decay.” It can take years for the whale carcass to settle on the ocean floor, and its body can provide nutrients to other organisms for decades.
Baker’s poetry is known for its sense of place and environmental message, and Whale Fall follows this trend. For those looking for beautiful nature imagery grounded in environmentalism and threaded with a personal narrative, Whale Fall is the perfect poetry collection.
A virtuoso of eco-poetry and acoustics, Baker meditates on the nonpareil majesty of the planet with rigorous consideration and reverence… Baker’s careful, captivating writing sinks under the skin, summoning a long-forgotten need for stillness, wonder, and attention to the sacrosanctity of the world.
David Baker has written nineteen books, thirteen of them poetry collections. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere. To learn more about Baker, visit his website.
From the shadow of the garfish to the memory of seabed in Ohio sandstone, nothing appears to be too slight or too immense for David Baker’s powers of lyric transformation. In book after eloquent book, his artistry has become more purely his own: pared down to essentials while refining its scope of generous inclusion. Baker’s method, like his subject, is the fine pulse of human encounter: here in its most distillate manifestation.
Linda Gregerson, author of prodigal: new and selected poems and magnetic north
The Irish Book festival hosted by the Ennis Committee of Phoenix Sister Cities is approaching on September 27th and will take place at the Irish Cultural Center. The featured poets/writers include Thomas Kinsella, David Baker, Sara Berkeley Tolchin, Cynthia Hogue, Dr. Adrienne Leavy, and Yvonne Watterson.
The fundraiser will take place the evening before at the Phoenix Country club. Festival tickets are $45 (including a light lunch) with a special student rate of $20 also available.
The Ennis Committee of Phoenix Sister Cities will be hosting a Irish Book festival, with a focus in poetry, that will take place at the Irish Cultural Center on September 27th. In addition to the poets and speakers listed, a number of Irish publishers and independent bookshops are participating through their promotional materials, press releases etc., and they will be promoting the Yeats special issue of Poetry Ireland Review, which will be published in Ireland on September 12th. They will also be launching the third issue of the digital magazine,
Reading Ireland: The Little Magazine, which will focus on Irish poetry, at the festival.
A fundraising event will take place the evening before at the Phoenix Country club with authors present. The cost of the festival tickets are $45 which includes a light lunch, with a special student rate of $20 also available.
The featured Poets/Writers for include: David Baker, Sara Berkeley Tolchin, Cynthia Hogue, Adrienne Leavy, Yvonne Watterson as well as Thomas Kinsella via documentary screening and lecture.
For more information regarding the book festival and/or the fundraising event, you can visit their website.
This past summer I managed to stumble into the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, an eight day gathering in a beautiful and quaint Ohio town about an hour east of Columbus. I wished I could have found more information about the experiences of past attendees. So I hope this might be helpful for someone. But let me begin.
If you would like to meet an agent or if you want to pitch your next great American novel, then the Kenyon Review Writers workshop is not for you. However, if you want to be submersed in the craft, attend exhilarating workshops, and sweat from writer’s exhaustion (yes, this is a thing) then Kenyon is your calling.
Every day you attend a workshop with the same workshop leader. You are then given a challenge that you will write that same night and then workshop the following day. Crazy. Forget the privilege of a poem a week or a poem a month because Kenyon is purely about the blood and sweat of writing (and trust me, you will bleed).
The poetry faculty included David Baker, Carl Phillips, Linda Gregerson, and Stanley Plumly. I also heard nothing but wonderful comments regarding the rest of the faculty. There is also guaranteed one-on-one time with your workshop leader in which you can talk about whatever you would like. I recall confessing my fear of marriage and commitments. You can have fun with it.
Every night there would either be faculty readings, fellow readings, and student readings. While some people love reading their own work, I do not entirely enjoy it. However, it is enforced that everyone reads and I didn’t meet anyone that managed to get out of it. Despite my personal feelings, you do read in a room of people that truly support you.
If you are going to suffer over writing, Kenyon is the perfect place to do it. A place reminiscent of Hogwarts, Kenyon will embrace your creative craft. It is also in lovely Gambier, a small town in rural Ohio that really only consists of the college.
In terms of accommodations, I stayed in the Kenyon dorm rooms (some opted and paid extra for apartments). Breakfast and dinner was included in the tuition. Gambier deli sold sandwiches and lunch is usually attended on your own time.
In my past workshops, I often wondered if I had learned something that is applicable to the craft as opposed to just marking up a bunch of poems. At Kenyon I did not feel this way at all.
With this, I am reminded of a moment in The Art of Recklessness, by Dean Young. “It is also worth entertaining the notion that the least important time in any workshop is when your own work is being talked about.”
I loved it. I walked away from Kenyon feeling as though I learned something about the craft that I could actually hold onto and would then carry to my own aesthetic for years to come. With this being said, I highly recommend Kenyon if you consider writing a top priority. Kenyon has an amazing way of embracing you in a setting that is truly only temporary.
Intern Sarah Dillard, interviews Haley Larson about her experience as a poetry editor for Superstition Review.
Haley Larson is one of the two poetry editors that is interning with Superstition Review this semester. Her background is unique, as she received her Bachelor Degree in Psychology and with a minor in Music from the University of Nebraska. She is currently working on her second bachelor degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis. Next fall, Haley will be headed to Graduate School to work on her Master’s in Poetry.
With the launch of Issue 3 right around the corner, interns have been busy finishing up tasks and projects. Haley was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share what her experience has been like with Superstition Review thus far.
Sarah Dillard: What led you to pursue a position with Superstition Review?
Haley Larson: I had ENG 411 with Trish, and she encouraged me to consider it. Having never done anything like this before, I wasn’t originally planning to apply–I didn’t think I’d have the time or experience necessary. It has turned out to be a highlight of my undergrad work. The hands-on experience is invaluable.
SD: What are some of your favorite poets and how do they impact you?
HL: A few poets who I obsessed over at the beginning of my poetry interests include Neruda, e.e. cummings, and Sylvia Plath. Since then, I have had some phenomenal instructors who introduced me to an endless world of great poets: Larry Levis, Mary Oliver, Paul Guest, Kay Ryan, Arthur Sze, Bob Hicok. I think most of these poets impact me by challenging me. Their work urges me to reevaluate what I think poetry is and consider the infinite possibilities of what it can be. Whether they create a form, transform an intangible idea into an image, or turn written language to a musical serenade, they all make me jealous enough to try a little harder.
SD: How would you describe your experience so far with Superstition Review?
HL: This has been an absolute whirlwind! However, I can’t think of a better learning experience for a young writer. Not only do I get to see the up-close and inner workings of the publishing world and its processes, I get to be a part of them. There is an unmatchable sense of accomplishment in having my input considered and progressing toward the launch of what is sure to be a stellar third issue. I have improvised through a few moments, but that’s the unique feature of this applied learning environment–it’s encouraged that we “do” rather than “be told.” I’ve learned to take initiative and scramble when necessary. And I will admit, I’m still the poetry equivalent of star-struck when I get to email back and forth with poets I admire.
SD: What are your responsibilities as one of the Poetry Editors of Superstition Review?
HL: My responsibilities include communicating with our solicited poets, reading and considering submissions that come in, sending acceptance and rejection emails, and a variety of other tasks that present themselves. More generally, I must meet deadlines, keep some sense of organization, and be flexible. I’m looking forward to interviewing Barbara Hamby and David Baker in the coming week. Researching their work and letting my curiosity run a bit is a great opportunity disguised as responsibility.
SD: What do you look for when deciding which poetry submissions to publish? Do you try to stay open minded throughout the process or do your own personal preferences play a role?
HL: Some key things I look for are attention to rhythm and musicality, sentient imagery, and fresh interpretations of language. The capacity to elicit emotion is an obvious element, I think. I look for the ability to experience the poem without having it forced upon me. I definitely try to stay open-minded, but I’m sure that I carry a bit of my own aesthetic into the role. In fact, I hope that my aesthetic continues to evolve throughout this internship. One of the most important things I’ve learned in this position–being part of a publication–is that it’s important to keep our readers in mind.
SD: What are your plans after this semester?
HL: I plan to attend an MFA program in poetry.
SD: What is the most useful piece of advice you would give to future Superstition Review interns?
HL: Jump in and get your hands dirty! Ask questions (I have asked a few hundred since January) but also trust yourself a little. It can be nerve-wracking jumping into a world that you’ve only read about, but everyone is so helpful and supportive.
SD: What do you hope to take away from your experience with Superstition Review?
HL: I hope to take away valuable skills suited to publishing, a more evolved aesthetic, and a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I can’t think of a better way to prepare myself for my professional pursuits in the poetry world.