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May 6, 2023

"If it's only about the safe and beautiful thing, then that song is trivial. Our job is to figure out how to sing, how to find shape and artfulness and formal rigor, about things that are sometimes really not artful, like a dead whale, like chemicals, like disease." --David Baker

Our Job Is To Sing: An Interview with David Baker

"I have hundreds of pages of notes about whales and plastiglomerates and the whale fall and what happens in the oceans and fishing, and I just wasn't happy with the poem that I was writing. At the same time, I was trying to think about writing a poem about my illness. We didn't even know what it was 25 years ago when I first got sick--something called M.E. I began to take notes for that, too. I've never written about it very much in poetry. It dawned on me at some point that this had to be one poem and that it had to move from a hummingbird in my backyard, which is one of the totem animals in this poem, to this one whale dying in the deep part of the ocean where it can actually go through those three stages of whale fall before it reaches the bottom. I was thinking about that very hard. Grief, yes, it's in the writing about my own illness. The purpose was to try to write about grief without writing about pity. Thats a difficult thing." David Baker is the author of 13 books of poetry, including his most recent publication, "Whale Fall." Alison Deming interviews him here about his work that honors both nature and its woundedness.


For more inspiration, check out Sarah Gilman's poem Terra Affirma here. More ...