cover image What Kind of Woman

What Kind of Woman

Kate Baer. Harper Perennial, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-300842-7

Baer debuts with a meditative exploration of her identity as a woman, wife, and mother, disrupting mainstream assumptions about femininity. Broken into three sections, the poems center on the roles of lover, wife, and mother, yet as she notes, “You do not have to choose one or the other.” For Baer, being a woman is itself a kind of powerful, dangerous magic: “I can be beautiful/ if I want to. I can take your/ rabbit ears and disappear/ them with my tongue.” In “Female Candidate,” she creates a linguistic collage of key phrases used repeatedly to describe women in positions of power: “I like her but/ aggressive tone/ it’s not that she/ now that I have daughters/ if only she would.” In “For the Advice Cards at Bridal Showers,” she turns worn-out pieces of advice upside down: “Go to bed angry. Wake up with a plan. When/ someone asks for the secret to a happy marriage,/ remember you don’t know.” Baer’s poems unearth the difficulties of marriage, as well as the body after it has given birth (“a deflated balloon. Bruised fruit”). In these confident and fearless poems, Baer suggests that the deepest and most vulnerable love is found in life’s imperfections. (Nov.)