Format: Kindle Edition Dark Earth ebook
I read a lot, of poetry, and, well, everything I can find. I’ve now read three of Dean’s books, and can honestly say I know of NO modern writer, still alive, or dead, who writes with such honesty, such power, and, such erudition. He has an innate, deep understanding of human nature, which comes across clearly, in both the simplest, and most complex of his poems… Add in a strong sense of humor and irony, a dash of Reality, a rather curmudgeonly love of people in general, and you have something special, in each one you read….
I’m about half-done with this book; I like to read them and savor…. They’re well worth it. IMLTHO, Dean’s books will someday be required reading for anyone who studies literature, poetry, or, human artistry…..Every one of his books is a bargain, at whatever price you pay….
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I have just read, Dean’s, Dark Earth, I must say the poems were all a surprise to me. I am a lover of poems but never have I experience poems in this form, they get under your skin, and occupy your entire being . His mastery of putting the English language to work for him , to bring to life his thoughts and what he wants to project is amazing. His flair for humor in presenting a serious intention is humorous in itself. He is not bashful, he is bold and fearless in expressing himself. You can certainly become a poetry lover by reading Dark Earth, because it is not the usual, rhythm and rhyme,it is mystery, reminiscing, and wondering if he’s writing your life story in poetry form, or maybe his.
– Dark Earth, Dean Baker
Been reading Dean Baker’s latest offering of poems of late, Dark Earth. Of course Dean is an author, composer, and performer who was born in Toronto, Canada, to a Ukrainian/Polish father and an Irish/Scottish mother. Attended the University of Guelph, and later won book awards from them, along with several unsolicited Ontario Arts Council awards, best poems published in a year in literary journals, and The T.S. Eliot Society of Miami’s Calendar Poet award. He has several other works out: Baker’s Bad Boys, Silence Louder Than A Train, The Mythologies Of Love, and The Lost Neighborhood each of which can also be found on his Dean Baker
What struck me intensely about Dean’s poetry is this sense of earthiness and despair tinged with a dark humor that I so love. An ongoing walk through these dark times is an underlying expectation, an almost uncanny movement toward hope; yet, not hope itself, rather it’s a sort of orientation to the future or forward looking gaze that can almost see between barbed wired clouds on the darkest horizon something strange almost shining through only to be sealed off immediately by the Reality Police who trap us in this bleak corner of the universe. Now by this I don’t mean that Dean is some kind of blipping optimist, no he’s a pessimist or realist like most of us. No that would make things a little to easy and rosy, and Dean is more of a bleak and transgressive churning below the muddy waters. He lives down where the alligators and moccasins move in those black ponds, waiting, harboring nothing but deadly thoughts. Dean’s world is to poetry what David Goodis in Street of No Return is to noir. In that bleak book the main character loses the girl, kills the villain, returns to skid row with a bottle under his arm for the boys in the cold wet sunless streets, where life is nothing but this hollow gesture, a desperateness toward the last dark weave of things: where losers sit in some dark alley passing the bottle around, and nothing could touch them nothing at all.
But then again what does touch us is Dean’s poetry, and it touches us hard and quick like some dark message out of hell; but this is no metaphysical charade – it is our hell, our lives in this god forsaken universe where the thought of salvation isn’t some dream of transcendence, but is rather a movement toward another order of indifference, another and hopeful purgatory across some bleak landscape beyond the lies and deceit of this one.
Do you not see how
to meet the grinning, opened mouth.
In Dean’s Widows he challenges our sense of propriety, brings us two death’s: the death of child, and the death of something else. Even the use of the plural – Widows, as if one may suspect some murderous collusion amongst “black widows”; or, rather the natural order of some dip into Shakespeare’s widowed “witches” from Macbeth; or, more likely just three old mean women out of some southern gothic world who, as the interlocutor tells us – as if it were some dark and sinister story, to be hushed up in polite society – a memory of another child: “the unlovely child you always knew too much about”. And, the interlocutor continues with a double refrain, one that tells us these dark widows are “carrying themselves” and “carrying themselves / with taunts of Spring”. The interlocutor will not say what cannot be said, what it is that these widows have done, or what secrets they hold to their black hearts. But he knows, and for him there is a bittersweet revenge in knowing that what they are moving toward as “they drive” is a meeting with that “grinning, opened mouth” – a death at once comical and grotesque that will undo these murderous widows and their secrets in ways beyond telling.
This is the key to Dean’s art, the subtle narration of certain moments that are never revealed in the full natural disclosure of facts, but are rather revealed more subtly in the voicing of certain affective relations between memory and mind in this ongoing inquisition with the sordidness of our unlived lives. It’s as if in each poem we are seeing slices of a pain, a snapshot of horrors, a visitation of certain indelible blood-lettings that continue to keep the wound of life open to the world. For isn’t that truly all that remains? How many of your memories are of joy? Oh I don’t mean the picture memories you can snap out, I mean the affective memories that stick in the crawl of your thick mind like a bad taste in the mouth. How many?
Dean is a true comic poet as well, full of those sly interventions and evasions, slights of self, incriminations and elisions: “It is you, who have ruined / your life, / with the comparisons … elegies outworn: / embarrassing”. And, even the muse is a fickle mistress a tormentor “the muse still torments me every now and then”, and yet she’s a comical waif as well:
She thinks a psychiatrist / may do the trick: forgetting / she had a hand in the mess.
What I admire is Dean’s pulling out all the stops, no sublime romanticist here; no, instead he’s taken notes from the underbelly of those masters of the macabre and grotesque. All those little oddball peculiarities of the absurd, bizarre, macabre, depraved, degenerate, perverse that are the hallmark of the best of that dark haunting literature, both humorous and earthy, grotesque – can be found here. As Philip Thomson tells us of the grotesque in literature and visual culture: he calls it ‘the unresolved clash of incompatibles in work and response’ and, he continues, ‘it is significant that this clash is paralleled by the ambivalent nature of the abnormal as present in the grotesque’.1 I like to go back to Baudelaire who perfected this mode after his careful perusal and translations of that master, Edgar Allen Poe. For Baudelaire it was to know that one was dammed in this life from the beginning; but it wasn’t a religious knowledge, no it was a secular knowing that this world, not some future abode of despair already harbored enough hate and crime to fill ten thousands hells. Maybe this is why even Sartre would seek in Baudelaire a brother of that darker existential pain that is existence with others, and go on to see “hell is other people”.
One of my favorites of this mode from Dean’s work, and the last one I’ll quote (I want you to cherish a first reading of the rest for yourself) is “Queen St. East””
The jaw slacks, with the weight
of the body’s loss,
to an inexorable acknowledgement
The brain is unfettered
in its jug; spilling over
with the nostalgia of alcohol
Flat on their backs, near Moss
Park, curled fetus-like, the
inhabitants whirl in a static frenzy of
Enfeeblement, any amusement here
sublingual: the posthumous twitching
of cynics en masse
That, my friends, in one succinct movement is the Grotesque Sublime: “the posthumous twitching / of cynics en masse”. It is also the dark knowing of a grotesque humor named “Dean Baker”. Rabelais and Hieronymus Bosch look out of dark chinks in these poems… instead of Emerson’s “Whim” above Dean’s lintel we might assume “Melancholy” resides here… that dark brooding that laughs below, and rises through the bones to jerk you awake from your too lazy sleep of existence.
1. Edwards, Justin; Graulund, Rune (2013-05-29). Grotesque (The New Critical Idiom) (p. 3). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Review quotes of Dark Earth: “Dean is a true comic poet as well, full of those sly interventions and evasions, slights of self, incriminations and elisions.. He’s the kind of poet that gets under your skin and stays there like a song in some dark noir alley that sings to you of love and death suckled on good old home grown truth.”
The Eschatological Dog
Format: Paperback Verified PurchaseDelightful? A few poems are. Poignant they all remain, & dog me.
With his one-of-a-kind poetry style, Dean trains his unique eye on the end of the world, or of humankind, death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming & Judgment.
There is no escape like reading! What about reading about what one may never escape from? Dean’s words took me into that darkening day. He used the color of meaning to paint the way. Yet, I never felt like running from it. I wanted to remain, to hear what the poet, writer, musician had to say about the decay, and mores.
Dean’s words string true, even if they bite you. Might as well face the music he presents, it feels healthy. Dog is God backwards, but I have a feeling Dean knew this when tempting us with his title. So, be tempted! It is a book worth reading.
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The New Expanded Version – over 100 pages of demented fun.
5 out of 5 stars
“Fantastic read. I don’t want to say more to avoid giving anything away. Get it, you wont regret it.”
The poetry left me pensive, painted into a corner, or suddenly wrapped with a loving arm (crying out loud) , or dropped into a comedy (laughing out loud).
As I read, Dean’s words kept coming at me, relentlessly, with increasing speed. I couldn’t put the book down; I read poems to anyone who would listen.
Dean’s style is rebellious. Capitals, punctuation, starts, ends and rhymes are where he wants them to be. His consummate skill works it all beautifully. So just read on without expecting a period at the end
When I reached the end, I began reading the book from back to front.I love this and all of Dean’s books!
As Dean is a unique, unconventional poet , I tried to capture this book in a different type of review.
I did the review on my blog & as it includes pictures, I can’t post it here.
If you would like to see the entire unorthodox review:
Among some of the blogs I follow is that of Dean Baker, and having read and often enjoyed a lot of his work (though not always fully appreciated, often having to read through previous comments for some of the meaning – my understanding and appreciation of poetry still being somewhat limited), I thought I’d jump in at the deep end read/review his book, ‘Silence Louder Than A Train’, for no other reasons than the title and liking the cover (possibly something to do with working in the railway industry – I know, totally illogical, and no, the book has nothing to do with trains or the railway). Whilst still being no expert, I did nonetheless enjoy it for the greater part.
Silence Louder Than A Train, by Dean Baker
(Available in print & eBook formats from Amazon and from Dean Baker’s blog)
The title alone is enough to pique the reader’s interest. Who among us cannot remember a time when silence alone didn’t ring in our ears as loud as thunder?
This anthology by Dean Baker is as diverse in style as it is in its subject matter. One of the aspects I liked most was the complete absence of predictability; written in two parts, the author writes of love and its tribulations, of the noble and often not-so-noble aspects of the human condition, of the turmoil of the creative process, and of his views and opinions of life and the people and society about him.
In terms of style, in some of the poems there is only the slightest and almost imperceptible homage to rhyme and alliteration, and yet it’s there nonetheless. In others he simply allows the words themselves to speak their meaning, almost in seeming abandonment of traditional poetic verse and structure – and still it works.
If all the reader is looking for in a poetry anthology are the poetic ramblings of someone trying to impress with their command of language or a gently rolling stream of consciousness then this probably isn’t it; but for poignant and thought provoking insight and new ideas, one would be hard pressed to do better than Dean Baker’s ‘Silence Louder Than A Train.’
A bold and refreshing approach to modern poetry, one that breaks the rules when necessary and yet conforms when it suits. Highly recommended…
Dean Baker’s ‘Silence Louder Than A Train.’
This review is from:
Dean Baker’s book The Mythologies of Love is savagely introspective yet as with his previous collection of poetry, Silence Louder Than A Train, refrains from the tedium of the confessional. The reader is left with an insight into what makes this poet ‘tick’ and a hint, through fine subliminal triggers as to his world view. These things are all there yet one must not forget that the collection pays heed to the book title throughout – in short it does what it says on the tin (a hackneyed phrase I know). Also, this author’s mastery in posing challenging questions by default is a rare skill. A superb set of poems I would recommend to any potential reader of modern poetry seeking out the works of a poet, who has no fear; who never pulls a punch or flinches from one circumstance has thrown his way. He simply commits the event to words. Those in or out of ‘love’ will find much to identify with here.
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“Love”, it’s so beautiful…..Well, yes! However, perhaps not exactly as I had envisioned. Nonetheless, passion is very evident in these poems. It’s especially noted when I feel distance from the sexuality of love, but want to feel close to it.
Dean doesn’t squander the “love ” word. Yet, I feel puppy dog love eyes. He is the dark horse running with lighter, brighter angels. His view, as always, remains true to his perceptions. Sometimes I understood I was reading in a special language. “Evol Fo Seigolohtym Eht”.
I have a fave poem in this book. “Poem For Ann Marie” & I must mention my second fave “The Market Place”. I won’t tell you why because I really think you should just read them for yourselves.
Yet, another wonderful book of poetry by Dean Baker.
“Required reading for anyone wanting to learn about wit, wordplay, and good, gritty writing in general. Dean Baker knows how to turn a phrase upside down and kick it full strength out the door. Five stars, and here’s to many more…”
Format: Kindle Edition
What more powerful a statement can a poet express than “the word is not the thing,” one of Baker’s titles. This alone points to the depth of the hand that scribes words that point, words that depict, words that make real, what we all feel.
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I delved into worlds lost on simple eyes with words Dean Baker used and formed to describe people, places, and emotions felt somewhere between reality and perspective. So many different interpretations of the world around us created in just a few words. I really enjoyed the poetry found inside The Lost Neighborhood and look forward to reading more of the author’s works.
The books _——–>Dean Baker books on Amazon