Unraveling at the Name, reviewed by Christina Pugh
for Poetry magazine
"Jenny Factor's first volume of poems
is really a novella in verse...through a sequence of poems in fixed forms--sonnets, blank verse, sestinas, couplets, and more.
This is essentially a book about a young woman's self-discovery and its consequences...[with a] victory of tone that is all
the more impressive in a first book. When Factor's lines swagger, the swagger feels hard-won rather than assumed. But this might not be evident on a casual reading of a poem or two.
Factor never mistakes coming out for conversion experience...and
this inspires both the humor and pain that animate this book. But Factor has written more than a lesbian
Buildungsroman in verse. Her speaker is also a brand new parent; and this makes for a tricky line
to walk, both poetically and narratively. Remarkably, Factor makes it work. Unlike other recent first books, Unraveling
at the Name refuses to sentimentalize the experience of mothering a very young child: "And who had ever seen so many/hours
stitched together, laid out beside one another, / to move through as through pond water?" Through the unusual vehicle of poetic
sequence, Unraveling at the Name gives us something unfashionable and even startling in these times of "putting children
first": the notion that a loving mother can have an identity separate from her child.
The book never preaches this moral, however, and the
reader must derive Factor's feminism (to use another unfashionable word) inductively, as it were...Eschewing canned personal
fulfillment and narrative resolution, Unraveling at the Name leaves us suspended...but we sense a victory of authenticity.
When all is said and done, the test
for such a book is very simple: do we care what happens to the character? In this case, we do."
Jenny Factor's Unraveling at the Name appeared as a short review
in the August 2003 issue of Poetry, reviewed by Christina Pugh. For the full text, order this issue from the Poetry archives.
Top quote appeared in the tandem review of John Frederick Nims'
The Powers of Heaven and Earth: New & Selected Poems (LSU Press, 2002)