Synopses & Reviews
Wagner's poems proclaim, among other things, a finitude--I'm total I'm all I'm absorbed in this meatcake--that is anything but final, that is instead embodied and generative. From the completion of the human body arise the actions of the human mind; it is these that Wagner charts, with affection, detachment, a measured embarrassment, and a calculated grossness, in defiance of all recommendation.
That Wagner is in love with the world and its transactions--perception, superficial and otherwise; childbearing, painful and otherwise; domestic arrangement, satisfactory and otherwise; gains, financial and otherwise--allows for a poetry that is full of song yet brazenly topical: Its subjects range from the controlled experiment of selfhood to the blooming and pruning of personal dynamics on a road-trip to . . . God and country / given up and given.
In this, Catherine Wagner's second book, we spy a poet espousing, somewhat fearful of her mandate and putting that fear to good use in the service of real exchange.
"In this unexpectedly direct sophomore effort, Wagner blends charm with aggression. Wagner's Miss America (2001) showed a wary critic of consumer culture questioning linguistic givens; these poems, while no less self-conscious, show considerably more verve. 'I'm an example, and experimental/ Attempt to assess how a kid of my talents/ Responds when she's given the life that I was,' one poem says; two pages later, though, Wagner disavows 'The glamorous self and its story.' Ragged exclamations and folk and playground rhymes give her choppy, hip discourse surprising energy; her anger and her willingness to identify its causes set it further apart. Some of those causes come from sexual experience, others from the travails of raising a young son. Childbearing and motherhood take over the second half of this fairly short book, to fiery effect: 'I hate the baby, stop crying... I hate you coming over my life like a bag'; 'At my breast/ He sold himself/ To me as my/ Needer.' Readers accustomed to canny ironies may find her 'outrageous,/ power-outageous' interjections too demonstrative, but her powerful ends finally justify their strenuous means. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Catherine Wagner's poems have elicited resounding, answering calls from several continents. These are poems of sex and identity, poems of spleen and craving, poems of grim energy and outspoken crisis. I love them. I am bored by so many of America's new bloods but this woman can write. Her neo-surreal vision and neo-dada attitude are matched by an exceptional feel for the magic of simple language--her poems organically grow down the page without effort, every line seeming right. She manages this by infusing every new image (and every repetition) with a corresponding voice posture. Very American, very urban, very modern and yet harking back to the best 'beat' legacies.--Josephine Ebert, U.K. poetry critic. Here in the United States, Rae Armantrout has this to say: Jack Spicer's Martians are back, but now they're talking wild girl-talk. In Catherine Wagner's Miss America, public and private collide in a new way, like matter and anti-matter. This is a conflagration. That is damage talk, she says, Want to watch me/Make it. And I do. In fact, if I died, I might want to come back as Catherine Wagner. Such enthusiastic identifications don't come cheap: Wagner's poems are worth their weight in flesh and gold.
Catherine Wagner's poems proclaim a finitude that is anything but final, that is instead embodied and generative. That Wagner is in love with the world and its transactions--perceptions, superficial and otherwise; childbearing, painful and otherwise; gains, financial and otherwise--allows for a poetry that is full of song yet brazenly topical.
Wagner proclaims a generative finitude. Shes in love with the world and its transactions, full of song yet brazenly topical.
About the Author
Poet Catherine Wagner was born to military parents in Burma and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Wagner is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, and the University of Utah's Ph.D in Literature program. She is Assistant Professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.