Book Review — A Sibil Society

A Sibil Society by Katherine Factor is the poets first published collection of poetry. Factor is an editor and educator that has read poems at the Nevada Test Site. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa and has held writer-in-residence positions at Idyllwild Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Academy.

First off this is not an easy collection of poetry. It is not “Instagram poetry.” That being said, the reader should also know that is not this is not traditional lyrical poetry either, although it does contain some lyrical aspects in places. The alliteration is amazing. It connects words and ideas, that many times would not seem to mesh, seamlessly. I also enjoyed the touch with classical Greek mythology intermixed in with modern texting shorthand: something very traditional with something very new — Delphi Selfie.

The writing style brought to mind some of the AI generated text to image pictures that I have seen. At first glance, everything seems normal and expected, but on closer examination nothing is as it seems or even describable. The poetry has the same effect at times. As in the poem “Pleasure Centaur,” the reader is forced to pay attention to the smallest details or miss the bigger meaning.

Factor is also not afraid to use words that, I expect, many others do not know. I found myself reading the dictionary almost as much as I read the poems. Factor also likes to use words that almost mimic what we expect to see. Even the title works this pattern. One would expect “Civil Society” rather than “Sybil Society.” We expect to see “we travel the countryside,” not the author’s “we travail the countryside.” Other times phrases take on deeper meanings. “Lady with the Lamp” uses fire throughout, but one line caught my attention — “Fire of the destroyer, welding this war.” Fire is destroying but it holds together war by joining the opposing sides in conflict.

While much of the poetry would be considered experimental, it is approachable for those with patience to get lost inside the lines. It is not literal poetry but poetry that encourages thinking and embracing the abstract. A well done and complex first work from the author.

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