Book Review: What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer

What Kind of Woman: Poems – Kate Baer (Harper Perennial, 2020)

Kate Baer’s debut poetry collection is full of short, punchy poems. They are about women – friends, mothers, wives – and often about how women navigate a world of men. They are sometimes advice, sometimes for a friend or a daughter. My particular favourite advice poem was “For the Advice Cards at Baby Showers” (the second poem with the same title in the book) which ends with the line, “and no matter the weather, every morning is new.”

The poems are emotional but grounded in the physical. There is the softness of dresses, the smell of bread, the different kinds of light through a window. In Part 3, Baer showcases poems on motherhood and the themes of both stability and fear surface repeatedly. The stability mothers can provide and that is often not understood until later in adulthood. The fear that being a mother can constantly create. Baer does an excellent job of holding multiple emotions in a single short poem. She expresses the frustrations and joys of marriage, the monotony that life can hold along with its simple joys.

I’ve been following Baer’s writing for a while. I think I first found her through her blog where she occasionally talked about books she was reading and reviewed them. Most recently, I follow her on instagram (@katejbaer) where she has shared some of her poetry. (I particularly enjoy her found-style poems that she makes out of messages men send her.) This book was precisely what I expected from reading Baer’s poetry on-line and several of the poems were ones she’d shared there. I’d love to see her tackle some longer forms and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some sort of narrative from Baer in the future but I think this is quite a strong debut.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer”

  1. I’m glad you liked this poetry collection! I hope to read more in 2020. I’ve been interested in the work coming out of Button Poetry press. Their stuff is accessible and meaningful.

  2. I’ve just started following her on insta based on your recommendation. Short poems are basically the only ones I find myself connecting with, longer verse poems always seem to lose steam for me by the end. The topics of these ones sound especially interesting…

    1. I hope you enjoy her work. I like reading longer poems but short ones are definitely more realistic for me to be able to absorb at this point in my life!

  3. I’m not great about keeping up with poetry lately (read: I haven’t been keeping up with poetry at all since I finished college) but have been curious about this collection. Maybe someday I will indeed pick it up, but I think first I will follow Baer’s Instagram, and that may entice me all the sooner! Found poems built around messages from men sound fabulous.

    1. I don’t read much new poetry now either, and it was one of my focuses in university too so I used to read a lot more. I’d like to start getting into more of it again.

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