An Undeniable Book Review: What We Buried by Caitlyn Siehl
For years, I found poetry insufferable. I disliked how my teachers were desperate to wring metaphor and symbolism out of every line, how difficult it was to understand, and how it was even harder to write. But there is a kind of modern poetry that walks the line between song lyric and slam poem that I find captivating. Caitlyn Siehl is a poet who gets this sort of style. She wrote a book of poems called What We Buried, and it is inspiring to say the least. Her masterful use of language is engaging and her original imagery is so vivid it elicits comparisons to short films. While not perfect, What We Buried is a beautiful collection of pieces that provide new perspective on familiar issues.
In just 37 poems and 44 pages, Siehl covers topics from body image to feminism to sexuality in a way that is unlike anything I’ve read before, which is one of the most refreshing things about this poetry collection. Siehl’s willingness to explore topics that are harder to talk about (instead of sticking strictly to more universally “acceptable” topics like romantic love) and doing so in a creative, empowering, and classy way is a clear sign of her skill as a writer. She challenges typical societal norm by refusing to paint girls as pure and innocent; in fact, she frequently compares girls to predatory animals and regularly demands that boys and girls alike refuse to apologize for who they are regardless of sexuality, gender, or background; and while several of Siehl’s poems are about romantic love, they aren’t overwhelmingly cliche or sappy. Although some of her comparisons can get a bit repetitive from poem to poem and occasionally the phrasing can feel a little pretentious, Siehl maintains her stylistic originality and creates new, exciting art out of a genre that often feels beaten to death. Her use of allusion and imagery actually keeps you on your toes as she reimagines relationships within established literary canons and connects them to modern love. My favorite example of this effect is in the poem “Mythology” where, as you may guess, Siehl uses references to Greek mythology to describe a romantic relationship. Siehl takes what you know, lines it up with something totally different, and transforms the way you imagine them both, all while making it look easy.
Needless to say, I came away from What We Buried not just astounded by Siehl’s knack for words, but also inspired. Seeing someone else’s creativity generate original work is beyond reassuring when it feels like there is nothing new under the sun. I did mention that some of her phrasing can get repetitive, and it’s true that sometimes the poems begin to feel very similar to each other, but it didn’t take away from the quality of the writing or what I like about her style. What We Buried is a quick but enjoyable read, and one I would recommend.