I reviewed Kate Baer’s first book of poetry at the beginning of this year (What Kind of Woman) and I’m pretty impressed that one year after that collection came out, she already has a new one. Like What Kind of Woman, this is a small book with short, punchy poems. This is, however, a collection of erasure poems. In her Author’s Note at the beginning of the book. Baer explains that her long presence on the internet has meant that she’s received a wide variety of comments, both negative and positive. Then one day, she began to make poems out of these comments. She does so by erasing words and leaving some behind, creating brief but powerful messages, often quite different than where they started.
The book is formatted with the original comment/email/article/speech on the left hand side and the new poem on the right hand side of each page. The originals come from instagram comments, emails, advertisements, and even Donald Trump’s infamous audio recording where he brags about grabbing women without their consent. As a whole, the poems are extremely timely, dealing often with the events of the past year such as the Capitol riot and police brutality. Several poems focus on the ways women’s bodies are critiqued and the expectations laid on them.
I follow Baer on social media so I’d seen some of her erasure poems shared there (though most of the poems here are new) and appreciated her ability to take comments that are intimately unkind and turn them into something beautiful. I admire her commitment to appreciating her own body and the beauty around her, even as others insist she should not.