You, me and a self-published book

The self-published poetry book “You and Me (but mostly me)” is an introspective dip into nostalgia.

Writer Olivia Baxter, left, and Artist Cedar Thomas pose with their newly published book of poems entitled You and Me (But Mostly Me). The book features poetry by Baxter coupled with illustrations by Thomas.

Liam Armstrong

Writer Olivia Baxter, left, and Artist Cedar Thomas pose with their newly published book of poems entitled You and Me (But Mostly Me). The book features poetry by Baxter coupled with illustrations by Thomas.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

With reflections on home and learning to love your mind, “You and Me (but mostly me)” tells stories of self-reflection and vulnerability.

The self-published poetry book written by Olivia Baxter and illustrated by Cedar Thomas is simple and thoughtful, inviting the reader to explore its themes based on their own experiences. 

Thomas, a University of Minnesota senior enrolled in the BFA in Art program, met Baxter during their time at the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) last spring semester. 

“Throughout the whole program, [Baxter] was writing these poems and she would post them on her Instagram story,” Thomas said. “HECUA ended and the summer came around and I kept seeing these poems, and I texted her, ‘We should make a poetry book together.’”

To which Baxter replied over text, “omg that would be dope, I’m down.”

Both Thomas and Baxter have always known of their love for the arts. Thomas grew up doodling and playing dress-up, while Baxter would carry around a thesaurus instead of a stuffed animal. 

The partnership seemed like a natural fit from the beginning. Thomas created illustrations for Baxter’s poems while Baxter wrote poems for Thomas’ illustrations. 

“We were always at the ready to get it together,” said Baxter, a University alum. “We would text each other an idea or a poem or an image late at night and be like, ‘This is what I’m thinking about.’ Making a book is this huge thing and it didn’t even feel like a big thing.”

It took them all of three months and a heavy reliance on Google Drive to put the book together. The process felt natural and meaningful, although neither Baxter nor Thomas had ever self-published a book before. 

“I wouldn’t have been able to do that alone,” Thomas said. “I think it was us hyping each other up that made it happen so successfully.”

With over 50 poems, it’s clear that “You and Me (but mostly me)” is a storybook of experiences, rather than just a poetry book. 

“The poems are a little more interpersonal, so it’s like the dialogue in your head,” said Lauren Heers, a senior who studies organic agriculture and food systems at the University. “It’s raw and you can tell there’s a lot of emotion behind it.”

Thomas’ drawings, which are doodle-like and somber, are detailed and intentional. They capture the vulnerability of Baxter’s poems, some of which tackle losing friendships and exiting a toxic relationship. 

“I went through all of this stuff in two years and the ‘You and Me’ are all kinds of different people in my life,” Baxter said. “It gave me a lot of strength through writing the book.”

For Thomas, who had actually enrolled as an aerospace engineering major at the University their freshman year, it was a way to contextualize their illustrations, which mostly represent their experiences with mental health. 

“It’s like cathartic,” Thomas said. “It’s a nice self-reflection. Even though I didn’t have the words to put to what I was feeling or when I wasn’t able to ask for help, I still was expressing it in some way that I see mirror exactly what I’m still struggling with.”

While Thomas and Baxter have no current plans to create another book, they’re ready and willing to do the process again when it feels right.

“There’s so much more power when you can self-publish,” Thomas said. “Creating books and zines is such a good way to spread art and get it out to an audience. They can get their hands on a tangible, physical copy of the art that can be meaningful to them.”

What: “You and Me (but mostly me)” at Part Wolf

When: 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.), March 9

Where: Part Wolf, 501 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $5

Ages: 21+

Editor’s note: Cedar Thomas is a former employee of the Minnesota Daily.