My Book World
These may be some of the most exciting poems, the most developed poems I’ve read by a contemporary poet in a long time. Wagner’s structure is deliberate, appropriating certain aspects from Joseph Campbell studies to frame her collection. Sure of her technique and subject matter, Wagner ensures her poems pop with energy: they possess a natural, almost childlike quality in their enthusiasm about youthful love, marriage, having that first child. In “Licentious,” my favorite passage may be:
She tells me come out,
someone might see me, the bounce
of my breasts, this ache. I will have to marry the snake
slivering into the banks, will have to marry the sun,
a thick hand on my shoulders (xi).
Wagner’s title may well spring from “Ball and Chain,” the moment the persona emotionally becomes the betrothed, the soon-to-be swan wife:
I dipped my toes in and you called me swan,
you said you’ll go where you want. It was maybe then I knew you saw me, how I wanted to fly or float, to cover. How even a mute swan will hiss and attack if you get too close. How you called me beautiful then, so beautiful and so loud, the say I’d hoot up to the stars, the way I showed my teeth (7).
The poet’s persona maintains her controlled ebullience throughout the entire collection, and I hope to read more of Wagner’s work. Congratulations to her for winning the 2021 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize Book Award. The collection is quite deserving.
TUES 12/06: A Writer's Wit | Ève Curie
WEDS 12/07: A Writer's Wit | Noam Chomsky
THURS 12/08: A Writer's Wit | John Banville
FRI 12/09: My Book World | Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country