The Silence of Red Glass
Poems by Maryfrances Wagner
"Maryfrances Wagner writes poems that cherish, reclaim, and salvage. A kind of lyric scrapbook with pressed memories of quirky characters and outrageous incidents coming to life with each turned page, Tiny White Lies is rooted in a distinct Italian-American community. However, Wagner’s vision branches out from that childhood into wide-angle elegies for coral reefs and wrens and the other harbingers of natural rhythms that slip like a word for that thing over there we can’t quite name anymore. But buck up and dry your eyes, these poems also insist, the past isn’t all past. We live in a world where there are planaria flatworms who can survive with memories intact even when cut into 300 pieces and it will take more than a sturdy shovel to stop those lily-of-the-valleys from coming back every year to take over the flower bed. We live in a world that once held Aunt Mary and we may yet grow into her legacy. Tiny White Lies is a book of poems that teach us how to remember, how to grieve, and how to face the future with sturdy resolve."
Kathryn Nuernberger, author of The End of Pink
Dio la perdoni, but Maryfrances Wagner has written not a book but a whole village. Aunt Mary who knows everything, a church-going grandma who plays the slots and cheats at pinochle, the local hood, and a schoolyard of kids like Andrea Teague with her whte angora tam "framing her face, pink//and crowded as a rose." And how can I forget Tony Fie whose skin looks "hail damaged." Or Josie and her battering husband, her only comfort a chihuahua who'll bite anyone who crosses her. These poems pulse with life. I can even smell Aunt Mary's biscotti with guigiulena baking in the oven. I know these people—their making do, the sadness they cover up, their laughter, their home-made sausage.
Alice Friman – The View from Saturn
Carpe diem, the formula goes, but the unit of human experience is the moment, not the day, and in The Silence of Red Glass Maryfrances Wagner has “fanned out a stored deck of moments,” each made as memorable as if it were the reader’s own: the moment when a schoolgirl, ignored by the teacher, wanders away to “where a hornworm, an egg sac on his back, / hollows and evaporates as baby spiders feed”; the moment of waking, when a “plastic glove reaches down our throats to pull us inside out”; the moment in childhood of seeing a very proper classmate’s sock drawer, each sock “folded into / a suffocated calla lily”; including the moment a thousand years ago when they buried alive a man whose body a bog would preserve, and including, too, “the moment, / a thousand years long: / perfect arc of lemon zest / flinging its essence.”
H. L. Hix – Rain Inscription
Maryfrances Wagner is the poetic equivalent of the old saw, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. When she launches her book with a long and lively section about her Italian-American family you think aha! I get it, but then you see it's not that simple, since in the course of these poems she goes through all sorts of stylistic changes and addresses subjects as diverse as kitchen gadgets, eggs, the not-little finger, and a Chihuahua named Guido. Here's a book that's not in danger of blending into the crowd and-- a rarity these days, as those of us who keep up with literary journals know-- a poet who's willing to take risks. Years ago, a piano teacher/reader who'd mail-ordered my book about the piano sent me an irate note demanding her money back because, she said, “I do not like this book.” That's just not going to happen here. Read Ms. Wagner. Pretty much whatever your taste, you'll be glad you did.
Lola Haskins – winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize
In her latest collection, The Silence of Red Glass, Maryfrances Wagner explores the themes of memory and mutability with depth and insight. There is a Ransomesque duality to her vision, it’s ironies turning on the tensions between reason and mystery, the life we desire and the life we can have, nature’s beauty and its indifference. Whether she’s writing about family (especially her peppery Italian Aunt Mary), friends, nature, or our precious bond with dogs, she does so with the clarity and humanity that often seem missing from much of the “elliptical” poetry of recent years. Bello, Aunt Mary would say.
William Trowbridge – VanishingPoint
Maryfrances Wagner’s sure hand shapes stories of an imagined time, her childhood, in Little White Lies, but look out. Fascinating stories unfold. Her storyteller’s pacing entrances. But more—they double back into the present and pack a whammy. You won’t be able to put down this book.
~Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09
These new poems by Maryfrances Wagner demonstrate, once again, that her heart and her talent are always together in deliberate revival. We her readers, a lucky communion, join in the celebration.
—Gary Gildner, author of The Capital of Kansas City
The Silence of Red Glass