Baker, Andrea. like wind loves a window. Slope Editions, 2005.
I begin with a couple disclaimers: I’m not an academic and I’m not a critic. I approach poetry intuitively, finding my
way through the craft by relying on my ear and my heart. I listen to what sings. Recently, Andrea Baker was chosen by Poets
as one of the “18 debut poets who made their mark in 2005.” In the P&W
article, I was surprised to read that Baker
does not have an MFA and makes a living running her own small business. In an interview on kickingwind.com
she admits that she
also writes intuitively. This review, then, is a response from one intuitive poet to another.
First of all, Baker proves that an MFA is not needed to write damn fine poetry—poems that both inhale and exhale
startling breaths, poems packed with lines that stay in your head. Sometimes, while walking the Brooklyn sidewalks and
looking up at the brownstone windows, I find myself singing lines written by fellow Brooklynite Baker:
and what if wind were a window
what if I loved
like wind loves a window
and walking through Prospect Park:
your spiral breath rising with the spiral trees.
But I admit that upon first picking up this book, I was a mystified by many of Baker’s poems. My tastes tend to favor
the lyric and narrative, and Baker is often lyrical (above her head the lion, nimbed and winged / blows air through a pattern
) but rarely narrative.
Yet the book does have its own internal logic. Edward Hirsch writes that successful
poems teach the reader how to read them, that they carry their own “encoded instructions.” Certainly, like wind loves a window
is a book that does exactly this.
In the first poem, “Preface,” Baker grounds the reader by locating us in the body:
So I said, holding up the arm, so I said, the hand shielding a face, so I said,
feeling up the arm, so I said, holding its hand, loosing straight down from the
spine I said
But once grounded, she launches us ahead, leap by nonlinear leap. When I start to flounder mid poem through
a nonnarrative of real children and model children, artichokes and stealing, this line brings me up short:
But what is it to slip, and what is it to yield?
I take it as a gentle rebuke from Baker for my insistence on the linear. So ok, then. I yield, I release, I abandon myself
to the poem. Letting go, I find we are back in the body again – the body now joining the soul. (Dangerous as we all know it is
to include the soul in poetry today, Baker somehow gets away with it.):
As a body would be, one all together. Where the long night and the soul recur spontaneously, the landscape glows a vivid blue.
The stage is set, instructions are downloaded. Onward to the next section, “gilda,” where my favorite lines occur:
Four lines broken with crisp precision, alone on their own page. Chewy language; a shocking image. In those four lines,
I give myself up to this world that Baker is creating.
But like wind loves a window
doesn’t want you to become too complacent, Baker
switches it up with “House” - a series of pictures and text, hand written notes, cryptic lines, half-drafts of poems,
and pictures (my favorite: a stick figure with childish house shapes for eyes and a mouth). Baker cites Sappho as one of
her influences, and a very Sapphic sense of fragmentation dominates this poem. Reading and viewing “House” is like
discovering a scrap of papyrus with a few of lines and half lines, such as this set, handwritten and crossed out:
In the next poem, the stick figure from “House” becomes a character in a “script” for gilda and her house.
Or at least, I imagine it’s this figure who gets to say provocative lines like
I have more skin. It just isn’t shedding.
More intriguing poems follow, continuing in their mysterious ways and beautiful language to re-figure the
familiar objects of everyday world—body, house, bird, water.
At the ocean all of a child’s skin; is public and the ocean’s public
skin crashes over
But there is a sense of emotional satisfaction that I’m generally missing in these poems. Is it fair to demand
that all poems contain some sort of emotional content? Perhaps not, but for me, at least, that’s what makes poems
worth coming back to, worth reading and re-reading. And while I appreciate Baker’s stunning dexterity with language,
there are times I want to be touched at the core of my (dare I say it?) soul.
Perhaps Baker and I simply disagree about the nature of this life. She writes,
this life is made
of little wooden places
and wooden cases
nothing is a tree.
But I say, go into the forest and the trees are
simply trees, breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen.
And it is deeply satisfying, sometimes, just to breath with the trees.
Nevertheless, Baker’s poems are exquisitely crafted wooden cases—inlaid with shining mother-of-pearl moments of discovery
and opening to reveal mysterious depths within their lovely lines.
is a queer, mixed-race writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her poetry has appeared in a variety
of publications including
She has performed her work in San Francisco, New York City,
and other "coast" cities. Beyer is a founding member of Agent 409, an NYC-based writing group that has published two zines
and is currently working on a performance piece addressing the theme of occupation. She leads a writing group for homeless
LGBT youth through the New York Writers Coalition. (firstname.lastname@example.org)