Denison University Professor David Baker Awarded Roethke Prize in Poetry
Date of Event: August 26, 2011
Posted: August 26, 2011
GRANVILLE, Ohio—Poet and Professor of English at Denison University David Baker has been awarded the prestigious Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize for his most recent volume of poetry, “Never-Ending Birds.” The Roethke Poetry Prize is awarded once every three years and is given for a book of poetry that has made an important contribution to American poetry and has been published within the previous three years.
According to Baker “ ‘Never-Ending Birds’ is the best book I’ve ever written – and certainly the most intense. It’s about living in the Midwest and its landscape, people and neighborhoods.” He adds, “This book addresses the upheavals and crisis of life and yet, for all its grimness, I hope it is the most beautiful book I’ve written as well.”
Denison Provost Bradley Bateman says, “David Baker is one of America's best poets. The Roethke Prize recognizes the beauty and subtle power of his verse.”
The Roethke Prize is given under the direction of the United States Poet Laureate, W. S. Merwyn, who appointed fellow poets David Wagoner and Rosanna Warren as judges for the contest. The Roethke is especially meaningful to Baker. “Roethke is one of my favorite poets of all time,” he says. “He was a fellow Midwesterner and very attuned to how things grow, which is evident in his rich, intensely lyric poetry.”
Warren, an award-winning poet herself, praised the sensory nature of Baker’s work. “He understands the human story as part of a larger story of life on earth, but he never forces the analogy,” she said. “His rhythms are as alive to the roll and tang of syllables on the tongue as they are to the recurrences and interruptions of the circulation of blood and sap. His poems respond deeply to life, and enlarge our imaginative responses to it.”
Baker is a professor of English and holds the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University. He has written 10 books of poetry, and his poems and essays have appeared in more than 100 magazines, including American Poetry Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker and The Yale Review. Baker also has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Poetry Society of America, among others.
Named for the late Saginaw poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for “The Waking,” the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize has been awarded since 1968 to notable poets for a particular collection of poems published in a specific three-year period. Past winners include former U.S. Poet Laureates Robert Penn Warren (1971) and Robert Pinsky (2008).
The award includes a $10,000 cash prize, which the Saginaw Valley State University’s Board of Fellows will present to Baker during a ceremony at SVSU on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Baker will give a reading at 7 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall (7400 Bay Road, Saginaw, Mich.) and sign copies of “Never-Ending Birds” following the event.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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