I Hope This Finds You Well

Kate Baer
Harper Perennial ($12)

by Nancy Beauregard

When bestselling poet Kate Baer started an Instagram blog, she never expected negative responses from strangers and internet trolls. Upon receiving messages like “SHOW YOUR TITS OR GET OFF THE INTERNET,” she simply blocked or deleted them, but as the pandemic took hold and she expressed more of her opinions on social issues, more of these kinds of messages flooded her inbox. Some were positive, but others were downright ugly. Instead of deleting them, Baer played with their words, erasing negativity until hope bloomed on the page. I Hope This Finds You Well is Baer’s resulting collection of erasure poems drawn from the misogyny found in the bowels of the internet.

Themes of politics, body image, and motherhood fill the left-hand side of pages where only names have been redacted from the original message, while on the right side, Baer’s erasures are juxtaposed, creating spaces for contemplation and healing. The first message, titled “Re: Women in the White House,” is from a writer who states their criteria for women in political positions, e.g., “Women who respect the traditional family structure as a wife and mother” and “God wants what’s best for women which is why he will have a hand in this next election.” Baer erases words of bias and supremacy to craft a different theme:

I have seen
love                            this country

  suffering from

Who better to lead us
         into the coming days

In another message titled “Re: Fat Girl Smiling in a Bathing Suit,” the poet is asked by a podcaster what her husband thinks of the photos she posts. In response, Baer erases text until what is left is her truth:



Thanks for the opportunity to
know                       Her

In a positive message that closes the collection, “Re: My Daughter’s Struggles,” a father writes to Baer how he found one of her “repurposed” poems on a friend’s post and loved the way she had changed the original message. He expresses concern for his daughter and the messages she receives on the internet: “I’m horrified at what harassment women must simply accept as the ‘price to pay’ for existing online.” He feels helpless to stop it from happening but hopes that in the future his daughter will see that words can be marshalled to kinder intent:

my                   daughter’s

  “price to pay”

                    touches some
unknowable thing inside me

I’ll never
know what she knows. But
        I can hope she’s
able to see

and repurpose

   in       hopeless times

I Hope This Finds You Well feels like a prayer, a provision of blank space for all to read, take a breath, and find strength in these confusing, turbulent times of negativity and hate.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2022 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2022