Title: I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems
Author: Kate Baer
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: 9 November 2021
TW: misogyny, sexism
This review might be all over the place but please stay with me. Okay, so the book of poems starts with a little introduction about how Baer came to the idea of writing this collection of poems. She talks about her first blog 13 years ago and receiving a misogynistic comment from some boy who thought this was a great way to spend his time (it wasn’t). These comments never went over over Baer’s writing career. Last year, (I’m assuming as she was writing this in 2021, she means 2020 as last year) she decided to look a little closely at these comments/messages/spam letters. Specifically, she took a comment from a woman who disagreed with Baer politically, blotted out some words, and posted her original comment and the blotted out one to Instagram. Since then Baer has seen poems in all her exchanges, not just on the internet. In I Hope This Finds You Well, she takes the comments/messages/email spam from her corner of the interest and juxtaposes those with her erasure poem next to it.
First off, and this may be me reading too much into this, but this isn’t a new way to do poetry. I’m not trying to take shots or make any negative digs at her but the phrasing of the author’s note at the beginning makes it seem like this is something new or at least new-ish. We’ve been doing this for years and you can read an interesting history of blackout poetry here. (I know Baer calls what she does erasure poems but its the same thing as blackout poetry just flipped, so I’m calling a duck a duck).
For the actual poems, I really have no problem with them. That ends up being my issue. Even now, I cannot tell you a memorable poem, one that I loved or hated or had huge emotions with. There is nothing there. I know I enjoyed it while reading them, but I found that they were statements that I could overall agree with and get behind. There wasn’t anything that needed any deep thoughts or struggles. (Side note, I do not mean struggle as in hard to understand or being frustrated. When I use struggle in conjunction with poetry, I mean that the author just threw a curve ball at me and now I have to rethink something about myself, what I believe, or the world. I hope this makes sense). I have read many reviews and comments from Amazon and Goodreads on Baer’s book of poetry, both this one and her first, and I totally understand why people like her poems. They are thoughts that a lot of us agree with and can get behind given to us in an easily digestible way. I also have to say that blackout or erasure poetry can be more difficult than creating your own poems because you only have the words in front of you to use, so major props there.
I want to end by saying that none of this is attacking her specifically, or her poetry. It’s just not my cup of tea nor the kind of poetry I want to read. If you enjoy her poems, go forth and read. We all should read more poetry!
Happy Reading Darlings!