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How this author takes critical Instagram messages and turns them into poetry

Author Kate Baer debuts a new collection of poems inspired by critical messages and comments she has received over the past year.
Kate Baer's second book, "I Hope This Finds You Well," is out now.Kate Baer
/ Source: TODAY

Kate Baer is no stranger to the internet. She found her voice online by documenting the most intimate parts of motherhood on her social platforms and publishing stories with the Huffington Post.

In November 2020, Baer's debut poetry collection, "What Kind Of Woman," dove headfirst into the intricacies of motherhood juxtaposed with what is expected of women.

“I had to sit with a lot of discomfort over who I was and who others wanted me to be,” Baer told TODAY at the time. “There is an expectation for American mothers to act like Deborah in 'Everybody Loves Raymond' but look like Betty Draper from 'Mad Men.' Instead, I found myself looking more like Deborah, but feeling like Peggy.”

Less than a year later, Baer found herself publishing a second book, "I Hope This Finds You Well," which is a collection of poems she never intended to write.

The inspiration? Critical direct messages she has received online. Baer creates her poems by erasing words from the original mean-spirited message to create powerful and inspiring art.

"The first erasure poem was made on a whim," the author told TMRW. "I was scrolling my inbox after the horrific murder of George Floyd, when I came across a message from a woman who disagreed with my stance on police reform."

Baer said normally she would have just deleted the message.

"But as I was looking at it, the words kind of rearranged in front of me and I took a screenshot, used the erase tool, hid her identity, and hit post," she said. (As with her later erasure poems, the post has the original message on the first slide of the carousel with her take on the following slide.)

The response was strong.

"Apparently there are a lot of people at odds with others on the internet, even more at odds with people they actually know," Baer said.

What started out as a self-dubbed "party trick" became something deeper and more meaningful for the Pennsylvania writer. "I Hope This Finds You Well" is an entire book of erasure poems made out of messages and comments Baer has received over the past year.

"I definitely did not mean to write two books in two years, or more importantly, two books in one pandemic," she said. "After my first book came out, I signed on for another full-length book of poetry, (and) this just sort of slipped in between after my erasure poems were connecting with so many people."

Baer recognizes the vulnerability of cultivating such a public online existence, but she takes it in stride.

"I don't read any reviews of my work — good or bad — so it is counterintuitive for me to read anything negative from a random person on the internet," she said. "I think the most important thing to remember is that the person behind the message is a product of their circumstances and that we ultimately have the power in how we respond."