At the jointure of aether-headed Spicer and the manic Plath,
making faces like a playpen, or a mycelian language pump,
it is Catherine Wagner, in gadfly and unending redefinition,
rhyme-peened but not rhyme-owned,
a sparkler torqueing in the muck.
An amusing, true, and hard
book. Hard experience: as when
there are too many babies in the
pregnant body: the baby, the
mother, and god. Absolutely
insouciant; energy constant,
focused, and ingenious. Really
good poetry about childbirth.
Faithful to the scary parts;
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.