Amanda Baker has done it again!
Her way with words once again had me wrapped up in a blanket, drinking chai, and going deep into my emotions to explore connection with God, self, and others. She has this way about her words that can empower me to dive deep into thought, exploring what she intended me to take away, questioning my understanding of what poetry is in today’s time, and extending myself past my comfort zone into areas where I am longing to read more and then sit with her on a couch to talk about what it was that led to each poem’s creation.
Friends, this weekend I had an opportunity to sit back and read an advanced reader copy (ARC) of the long-awaited 2nd poetry book from Amanda Baker, “What is Another Word for Intimacy” released today by Yellow Arrow Publishing. When I tell you that I have been waiting since May 2020 for this book, I am not exaggerating at all. As soon as I finished her first book, Ask, I wanted more.
Thankfully, she was nice enough to support my habit of wanting more and more of her poetry through her diligent posting and sharing her readings on Instagram over the past two years. And while I am thankful for some of those poems, such as this post, and this one, and this one, it’s not the same as being able to hold her writing in my hands in book form, sit with it, and let my mind and pen wander as I look at the clean white paper that she bled upon to share her lifeblood of words with us. (Okay, yes, I do realize she typed it into a computer but give me the dramatic effect of picturing her writing on blank sheet after blank sheet until she confirms otherwise.)
What is Another Word for Intimacy? was released this morning (Tuesday) and I am thankful to have ordered a copy before they sold out on Amazon! Yes, SOLD OUT on the first day. I am not shocked because Amanda connects with you, even if you are like the me who first met her who really didn’t love this “newer” type of poetry that was less Dickinson, Frost, and Hughes, and more lines of thought that can oftentimes feel scattered at first glance. But as I got to know Amanda and other poets who wrote in this format over the past few years, I came to realize the beauty in this poetry I never learned in school.
The beauty is that the thought CAN be unfinished and then YOU THE READER get to finish it. Maybe you do that through thought, journaling, or writing a follow up poem (called an “After”, as I learned from Amanda). She has taught me a lot about poetry over the course of our friendship and knowing one another, and through that learning, I have been deconstructing all I thought I was and believed to ensure I am standing firmly on who I am, what I believe, and where I want to go.
Yes, all through poems.
Whether pouring her heart onto the paper through a short poem that has you finishing the thought for yourself (such as with Absence.) or a longer one that “checks the boxes” for what many of us from Gen X and older learned in school “defined” poetry (such as with Stay.), Amanda has a gift of pulling you into her world while allowing you to safely reside in yours, allowing you to feel stretched because of the pull to want to move away from the comfort. Like a roller coaster ride after you’re past the age of thinking dizziness, nausea, and fear = a fun 30 seconds, you can’t help but want to ride the ups and downs of the poetry, exploring joy, sadness, melancholy, depression, mania, and more all while feeling completely meh and absorbed. It’s an amazing ride that no carnival, amusement park, or track can give you, especially since you get to do it all with a warm drink while wrapped up comfortably in your favorite reading spot.
In this journey that feels more like a full-length poetry collection than a chapbook, you are brought to places of reflection, empathy, and longing. Here are some of the highlights of what I thought of and felt as I read through the book.
As I read My Love Language Must Be., my heart remembered the last time I was in love and how I shed yet another layer of myself as I got to know me through falling in love and the process of letting go of control. I actually shed tears by the end of this poem because I felt it so strongly. The last two lines were everything and truly are what I believe as a Christian true connection looks like between folks destined to meet and walk this journey called life together.
As I read When I Feel Home., I felt like I found a missing piece in my journey. Something I have been looking for and walking in circles to find as it stared right at me from beneath my feet. I am still processing this one and how to move forward with the realization and find the courage to pick it up and put it in to place. More on this one in a future blog.
When I read Stranger., I cried and stopped reading and put the book away for the night because I couldn’t read anymore. I was stuck. Not in a bad way, but in a way that some poems can bring you to the edge and make you finally feel something you’ve been avoiding. Like remembering a dream that you felt so deeply as you slept but then can’t remember a detail of when you rise the next morning and then you walk by someone wearing a certain perfume or singing a specific song and suddenly it all comes flooding into your emotions, this poem reminded me of a lost love and reminded me of a scar I thought had disappeared but is still visible when I look hard enough.
As I read Take me to the mountains., I felt like Amanda and I have some similar experiences and tendencies. I felt the whimsical joy of wanting to try something new and yearning for someone to say “okay” only to then look back and wonder, “Why did you say okay?” It’s not a blame, as I would never want to undo it; more like a “hmmmm…. and considering whether I really wanted to dive into the deep end after I am deep sea diving without an oxygen tank.
As I read Winds of Change., I felt heartbreak as I thought of lost love and relationships I haven’t nurtured over time.
There are so many more, but those ones were the ones I connected with most at first run. I know I will connect even deeper when reading the actual printed book that arrives on Thursday. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to connect deeper with themselves, with those around them, and maybe even a higher power (as reading these thoughts all led me back to a place of prayer and gratitude for God and being a human who is capable of feeling such emotion, so perhaps it will lead you back to what you consider your source or connection). It’s one of the things I enjoy about Amanda: our friendship, which began as writers and professionals and evolved into friends, has always allowed each of us to be fully who we are despite all differences. We’ve connected on what we have in common and not allowed separation where we see things differently, whether in writing styles, beliefs, thoughts, or how we connect with others. Her writing and who she is empowers me to be more fully me in my expression as she is fully her.
Share the book.
Enjoy the book.
In case you are wondering who Amanda is, as it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, you have heard me talk about Amanda if you read “Words that Cut Deep (After “Stumble” by Amanda Baker)” or Poetry: A Thousand Ways to Skip (After Amanda Baker)“, or if you follow me on IG. She is my favorite written poet of today’s times and has taught me so much about self-expression and true connection with myself and God through her writing and friendship.
Here is how she is described by Yellow Arrow Publishing on the book’s landing page:
Amanda is a mental health therapist, 200-hour yoga instructor, and poet from Baltimore, Maryland. She attended the University of Maryland School of Social Work and James Madison University. She is a mother of her four-year-old son, Dylan, and enjoys time in nature. Amanda has self-published a poetry collection that includes written work from her early teens into her 30s. You may find her book ASK: A Collection of Poetry, Lyrics, and Words on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Beyond all of that, Amanda is a friend I believe I was destined to meet. In finding me while in the process of publishing her first book, she has become a friend who has helped me revive a love for writing that had gotten lost in the WORK of writing. When you do it day in and day out and spend your days crafting emails and marketing copy, you tend to lose the desire to sit at a keyboard and type more. I would spend hours writing in notebooks and losing myself in creative worlds, only for them to live there because then sitting at a keyboard to type it all into a file was a daunting task. Amanda reminded me through her inquiries and sharing thoughts on writing that it’s worth the daunting task when even just one person realizes they aren’t alone because of it. In finding her will to publish, she helped me find a will to revive writing I’d long ago set aside and to get better at sharing the pieces (even if only with friends, not on social media) that I write in my journals and notebooks.
Amanda will both inspire you and affirm that you are okay where you are. She will encourage you to write more and to rest more. She will encourage you to LITERALLY stretch yourself and attain more and higher and farther, while also empowering you to remain still when that is what you need to do.
Amanda is my poetry hero right now and I don’t even feel like I am really fangirling to tell you that because I really mean it and can speak to her the same way I speak with my daughter, best friend, and God. That’s because she is what you see and what you read, and that is perhaps what drew us together as writers and then friends: real seeks out real and then goes deeper into understanding the bonds we create that weren’t formed without masks so we can unglue, become undone, and reintroduce ours.
What is another word for intimacy? Friendship with Amanda, even if being simply poetry friends online. You can’t help but start to understand intimacy once you’ve said “hello” and read your first poem from her.
The book is available through the publisher, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon (paperback is sold out at the time of publishing this blog). If funds are short, or you like to read PDFs, Yellow Arrow Publishing generously offers a PDF version of the book for under $5 at the time of publishing this blog.