Poetry Santa Cruz
Poetry Santa Cruz

Aaron Baker

An Interview by Dennis Morton with poet Aaron Baker

Dennis Morton:  Why do you write poetry?

Aaron Baker:  I don't know why, exactly.  I love to read poetry, and I guess at some point I saw in it a chance to sort of channel my own experiences and ideas into shapes that might make them more meaningful to myself and others.   There's also a sense of writing being an experience in its own right--an engagement with language which constantly surprises and excites me.  

DM:  Your parents were missionaries.  How has that experience colored your poetry?

AB:  Even when I don't use it as subject matter, I think there's sometimes a rhetorical cast to my language which is influenced by the Bible, its tone, cadences, etc.   Also, living in other places, being exposed to very different sights and sounds and ways of looking at the world, couldn't help but effect me in all kinds of ways.

DM:  If you were The Poetry Czar, what five poets would you order us to read?

AB:  Wow--the Poetry Czar.  Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman spring to mind.   Theodore Roethke--who has been and still is very important to me.   Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath.   Charles Wright.  Lyn Hejinian.  Obviously five isn't going to cut it--I think I'd abdicate and set the people free!

DM:  If you weren't a poet, what kind of an artist would you be, and why?

AB:  A dancer--oh, absolutely.  But seriously, I've always thought it would be fun to work in film or photography, something that works with images in ways that might not be all that different from poetry.  

DM:  What special challenges, if any, do you see facing poets of your generation?

In my opinion, the important challenges involved in writing a poem don't really change at any basic level.  The end results might look different--as with language poets--but the process, the heart-searching, the trying to hear what words are trying to say remains the same.   I don't think we have to think about it in generational terms--to engage in the apparently never-ending debate that pitches today's literary fashions against tradition (yesterday's fashions).   And I don't think we have to deliberately set out to follow Ezra Pound's dictum to "make it new," when the language, if we're really attuned to it, is new every morning.

Aaron Baker reads with George Lober at 7:30 pm on July 23, 2002 in the Louden Nelson Community Center.

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