Sunday, March 05, 2006



like the wind loves a window by Andrea Baker
(Slope Editions, 2005)

Andrea Baker is shopping around for a new reading style. This would be a mistake. When some people hear Baker read, I suppose they might worry that her voice is too quiet. One must focus carefully in order to grasp her intonations. Yet, the way Baker reads her poems is completely keeping with the spirit in which the work was written: a sparse, lyrical dreamstate.

While Baker’s poems do have a narrative, as with all excellent poetry, it’s not one that comes easily. The language is not only quiet, but insists that the reader/listener be quiet enough to assign meaning to it. Baker’s “topics” -- a term I use very loosely here – are ones which effect readers at one time or another: the ideas of various kinds of love, loss, and home. To these things, Baker lends her particular voice.

What works best in Baker’s poems is a heightened sense of imagery. Sometimes, as with “House,” which is partially composed of drawings, the imagery is quiet literal. Other times, it is Baker’s finely tuned sense of seeing: she sees a “historical blue/machine gun sky,” “a human head composed of leaves,” and “a rabid cat ran from a rabid dog, laughing.” While Baker does, at times, rely on the surreal, she is not trapped in “hipness” of it. Her images, while odd, are in no way oblique; we can see them, and perhaps we have.

From a personal standpoint, I relate to Baker’s ambivalence regarding marriage and motherhood. The poet has a desire to buy the artichoke because she wants “that type of intimacy.” Her “house” is one that is warm and safe, but like all ours, is not without complications. It is a place where “the center room was surrounded/by other rooms/so it had nowhere to go.” An exact, literal description of Baker’s apartment, but also a seemingly good metaphor for the comfortable, but oft trapped feeling that we refer to as family. Something to which, “the surrender is immeasurable.” She has a desire to expand the definition of motherhood, and to question it.

In the current poetic climate where lyrical is a four letter word, Baker dares to be just that. I find that many of the new generation of poets, and their publishers, often veer away from any true lyricism in their work at the risk of being labeled sentimental. Baker takes such a risk.

Jennifer Bartlett’s work has appeared in How2, Ratapallax, smallspiralnotebook, and First Intensity. She is a 2005 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow. She is co-editor of Saint Elizabeth Street. Her first collection of poetry, Derivative of the Moving Image, is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press.


At 10:03 AM, Blogger EILEEN said...

Another view is offered by Steffi Drewes in GR #4 at:


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