And Yet: Poems

Harper Perennial. Nov. 2022. 112p. ISBN 9780063115552. pap. $17. POETRY
In her third collection (after I Hope This Finds You Well), Baer offers a reality check on parenting and relationships, presenting the exhaustion of long days with children and the weight of their needs: “God help me the children are calling!/ God help me there’s nothing clean to wear.” Yet the title poem closes with these striking line: “Little cauldron, little tender loon./ Take comfort in your bold heart/ where hope and fear are mingling.” Wonder appears in these poems, following Lucille Clifton’s dictum that “poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing,” and when it does readers are draws in deeply: “you’re the daughter who became a lion/ in an otherwise soft and/ ordinary life.” Unfortunately, many weaker poems seem like filler, blunting the humor and lyricism of the collection. Here is the entirety of “Headstone Suggestions”: “Love and be loved./ Gone but not forgotten./ Honestly just a really good time.” Occasionally, the poet emphasizes the trendy, as with a summary of dull group texts or a quiz in language that could have appeared in a women’s magazine.
VERDICT An uneven poetry collection, but ultimately, the author’s pulse on social mores makes for an interesting read, as does her hard-earned understanding of married love and family life during bleak pandemic times. Recommended for public libraries.
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