Reliquary of Debt
by Wendy Vardaman
Wendy Vardaman (wendyvardaman.com, @wendylvardaman) is the author of Obstructed View (Fireweed Press), co-editor of four anthologies including Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, and Local Ground(s)—MidwestPoetics, and founding co-editor of Cowfeather Press (cowfeatherpress.org). She teaches indepenently, organizes community events and conversations about poetry, and writes reviews, essays, and interviews for many venues, including her blog, live art(s) art live(s) (wvardaman.tumblr.com). She has a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania and is one of Madison, Wisconsin’s two Poets Laureate (2012-2015). With husband, Thomas DuBois, she has three adult children and has never owned a car.
Wendy Vardaman travels with a keen eye for off-beat and evocative details of history, art, culture, and her own family relationships. These she savors and preserves for us in Reliquary of Debt, a tour de force of poetic innovation and fun.
—Margaret Rozga, author of Justice Freedom Herbs, Though I Haven’t
Been to Baghdad and 200 Nights and One Day
A poetic pilgrimage, Wendy Vardaman’s Reliquary of Debt invites the reader to re-see the art and artifacts of our culture. Through the lens of these gentle, smart, and witty poems, the distance that the notion of “relic” usually conjures falls away, replaced by a vital experience that has the reader’s own “worship-wanting eyes” newly fixed on everything from “finger bones” and frescoes to the Harry Potter Platform 9¾. The book awakens an awareness of everyday “debts” we owe for the lushness of food and persistence of memory, for stories like that of Saint Zita’s miracle and the ones we create walking through our days together. This is the poetry of ancient cities, of museums and cathedrals, but it is also the poetry of family, of sacred journey taken together with the sun warm on our backs.
—Kimberly Blaeser, author of
Apprenticed to Justice
Wendy Vardaman serves up dense, inclusive, polyglot poems of pilgrimage, travel, family, history, art, imagination, relationships and more. With dance-party rhythms, fresh language and imagery, imagination and facts, Vardaman continues in the American line of making traditions: Skype poems, giottos, Wikiprosepoems, Wikilistprosepoems, American sonnets, Abecedarians and scholarly-lyric-hybrids. Read the powerful “Tortelli di Zucca Mantovani,” the second poem in the collection, and you won’t be able to put the book down. You’ll also be craving the title dish. No worry: Vardaman includes a recipe for the famous dish. Not a cook? Trader Joe’s is mentioned several times as a source for imported Tortelli di Zucca. However, poems like Vardaman’s you’ll find no where else but in her surprising, adventuresome collection Reliquary of Debt.
—Susan Firer, author of Milwaukee Does Strange Things to People:
New & Selected Poems 1979–2007