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Holladay Journal

Poet Nancy Baird Merges Spirit and the Natural World

Apr 23, 2020 03:03PM ● By Sona Schmidt-Harris

Though Baird has a BA in English from Brigham Young University and has published essays and worked in journalism, she did not begin writing poetry in earnest until she was around 40 years old. (John Baird/Jerusalem)

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

Poet Nancy Baird sits in her living room. It is clear she is a sensitive being, so needed during these precarious times with the outbreak of COVID-19. It is a time during which we need poets and philosophers.

“I do not try / to find beauty in the world / I can barely take my turn here … / yet the inferno of its glory inflames my eyes, unhinges my skin.”

“In the crescendo of one unblemished sound / I am dragged from the grave.” From “Alive” by Nancy Baird.

Though Baird has a BA in English from Brigham Young University and has published essays and worked in journalism, she did not begin writing poetry in earnest until she was around 40 years old. “When it started to come out, it came out a lot,” she said. In fact, it was not long after the birth of her fifth child that the poetry began to flow.

April is National Poetry Month and Baird takes time to write her poems. “Poetry should be a distillation of truth. So I try to always be searching, diving, drawing out what’s true and then trying to put that truth into what I write. And trying to do it in the most creative and original way I can. At least that’s what I’m hoping to do.”

Named Utah Poet of the Year by the Utah State Poetry Society for her book, “The Shell in Silk,” Baird has also been published in “Southern Poetry Review,” “Comstock Review” and others.

She took second place in the 2009 Utah Arts Council Original Writing Contest. Of her poetry, one of the judges stated, “In her poem ‘Structure,’ the physical world and the spirit world are equally visible in these poems. ‘But watch the birds all loose / above the olive groves. They need so little - / instinct, strong wings, the worm. / Weightless spirits melting in and out / of figure.”’

She primarily writes in free verse. She believes using rhyme often forces the writer to “bend his/her thought to make the rhyme.”

Poets who have influenced her include Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mary Oliver, Poet Laureate Billy Collins, Louise Gluck and Jack Gilbert. “Isaiah is one of the finest poets we have had, even in translation,” she added.

The natural life of Hawaii has also influenced her.

She enjoys running, growing flowers and teaching poetry workshops.

Baird embodies both the glory and fragility of life, something we are all likely feeling during these uncertain times. In “Invisible,” she writes:

“But I have been loosed, picked like a peach, / fractured with light / before I flew to the dirt.”

“The wind swirls, lifts raspberries and roses. / Peaches hang pendulously.”

“Beneath its fragile coat of skin / my body beats its silent life / and the blood blazes.”

 

 

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