Artist Profile - Quenton Baker
Quenton Baker is a poet and educator. His current focus is anti-blackness and the afterlife of slavery. His work has appeared in Jubilat, Vinyl, Apogee, Pinwheel, Poetry Northwest, The James Franco Review, and Cura and in the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters and It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop. He has an MFA in poetry from the University of Southern Maine and is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Quenton is a 2017 Jack Straw fellow and the recipient of a James W. Ray Venture Project award from Artist Trust. His first collection, This Glittering Republic, came out from Willow Books in 2016.
Quenton received 2016 James W. Ray Venture Projects funding for Ballast, a collection of poems that looks through the slave revolt aboard the brig Creole as a sort of kaleidoscopic lens in order to consider the condition of blackness and the unavoidable violence that comes from existing within the white imagination. In 1841, a group of enslaved people led by Madison Washington commandeered the brig Creole as it was en route from Virginia to Louisiana, and steered it toward the British island of Nassau. Britain abolished slavery in 1833, meaning that no authority could be exercised over any enslaved person who landed on English soil. It is the only large scale successful revolt involving U.S.-born enslaved people in American history; 135 people gained their freedom. The collection is a combination of erasure poems of source texts—pages from the Senate document detailing the Creole case—and poems in invented form to look at what some black writers and thinkers call “the long memory” or the “long utterance” of blackness. The similarities between enslaved people’s survival techniques and the coping mechanisms of myself and my loved ones—the way their bodies were pained, the enormity of the breach—are far too familiar. Not so much externally, but the utterances that we make in these moments of survival: what we think, what we feel, how we seek our flawed victories, how we survive or succumb. There is a bitter harmony between those frequencies, and this project is about mapping that modulation—across time, across space.