Denison professor and poetry editor of the Kenyon Review, Baker (After the Reunion, 1994, etc.) stays true to his subject in this, his fifth book of poems in which he asks us to ""lean down and listen."" And when we do, we hear the steady rhythms and strong cadences of a poet who measures his praise of the natural world and his celebration of love with the darkness that threatens both, all within the setting of small, rural towns. Without the usual gush, Baker finds himself time and again in a lover's embrace, and in ""The Politics of Love Poems,"" everything else in life serves these moments of wonderful passion. At other times elegiac and lyrical, Baker excels in poetic sequences that allow him to see through ""the smoke and gray-green distances of pain."" ""Dust to Dust"" recalls a brick road carefully made by the local men; ""Ivy on the Field Locust"" considers a lone tree dotting a field over time; ""Spirit Flower"" finds the poet picking peonies in a town that's been rendered unlivable by gas from an old mine; and the title sequence captures both the joys and sorrows of living in a town that eventually exploits its ""faux charm"" for tourists. Contemplative and plainspoken--yet formally satisfying as well--Baker's rigorous verse tempers his sentimental yearnings.