On August 30, local writer and poet D.R. Baker will be reading from his latest book, A Garland of Blood and Dream, at Arttreet in Green Bay. His second book, it follows on the heels of American Supper — a critically-acclaimed collection of poetry written in blank verse.
“Poetry has gotten a bad rap these days and for the purpose of generating at least some interest, that is why I use the term ‘spoken word’ instead,” Baker said. “In my opinion, the reason it is ignored or maligned is due to three things: an ailing school system, a vacuous mass media, and the gutting and vaporization of our middle class—things which are only symptomatic of a bigger affliction caused by the cozy relationship between mega-corporations and all levels of government, things which we now see have eroded our core values, are destroying our planet’s environment and our quality of life…although I think we are starting to see a transformation, a general shift in our consciousness, it is happening very slowly but that shift is gaining momentum.
“The spoken word—and language arts in general—help us find meaning in our lives…and language is still community property, it is shared and it belongs to everyone,” he continued. “We need to embrace an oral tradition—a culture of story-telling…not only is it a creative outlet but it is cathartic…it helps us know that we all share the same joys, sadness, and challenges in making our lives and our families’ lives better, in making our communities more whole and more resilient when bad things happen.”
A graduate of the University of Arizona, Baker holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in English. A Milwaukee native, he lived in the southwest for several years before returning to northeast Wisconsin. While his first book stressed the elasticity and abstraction of language, A Garland of Blood and Dream is written more for a general audience and “appeals more to our common, shared tragedies and joys (and) is not as dark and self-reflective…whereas the first book was a map of an internal landscape, the second one links the external with the internal,” he said.
“I have to separate what I write and read for an audience from the perception that ‘spoken word’ is solely the province of old bores in academia who think they know everything but actually seem to know only one thing: how to advance their idea of the way everyone else should think and do — this is not a critique of everyone, personally, I have known some really bright people who are in the system…of course, that relationship isn’t always the most harmonious,” he said. “I am very interested in attracting people from all walks of life to my readings—artists and intellectuals but also blue collar workers, professionals, housewives, househusbands, students, business owners, the unemployed, everyone…”
Baker bristles at the idea that art is a fruitless endeavor—especially language arts. “More than 30,000 titles are published monthly in the United States alone. Ironically, with digital platforms and the advent of self-publishing, we are seeing a democratization of the publishing world and opportunities across the board…no one needs an advanced degree or a special certificate to hang out their ‘writer’s shingle,’” he continued. “Certainly, a specialized knowledge–or niche–in some subject area is helpful. With Kindles and Nooks, the e-book has come into vogue. This kind of technology seems to offer a lot of opportunity and is more convenient for modern readers — if they can get away from playing video games for awhile,” he laughed.
“But the most helpful people, at least for me, in terms of generating local and regional interest in writers’ and poets’ works, has been our library system.…it is just an awesome community resource and one of the last, local bastions of hope for people who are not only readers but film buffs, researchers, people who want to explore newspaper archives or do their genealogy or just come in and socialize or use their computers.
“I am so grateful that all of these people, including the yearly Artstreet folks , are there for us,” Baker concluded. “We should all do what we can to support them.”
D.R. Baker’s performance, “Out of the Fugue”, will be at the Book Garden Literary Stage on Sunday, August 30 from 1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m., located across the street from Bosse’s Cigar Shop (220 Cherry Street in downtown Green Bay).
What the Man Said by D.R. Baker
A man told me that another man told him that music is a prison,
Music is a prison, a cage for lovebirds, a song without a singer,
A bride without a groom.
Music is a prison and we are its captives, straining to hear the guard at the door,
Lunch through the chuckhole, Alcatraz pigeons, cobwebs and a ghost that does not listen,
A ghost that does not listen to the rhymes in our heads and
The chords of our heart.
A man told me that another man told hymn that music is a prison.
To stoop and listen and stopped strumming,
I stopped my drumming and humming, started
To listen instead,
Turned away from the words of the dead.
Living, he said what he said, is what you do,
And what you do can be robust, sober, and true.
King James in Braille & feathers left in the door…
An empty rock in the sea,
The empty rock in the sea.