Home and Away

Overview

Rachel Wetzsteon has been hailed by John Hollander as the writer of the "most impressive verse I have seen by anyone of her generation" and by Richard Howard as the "most variously gifted of our new poets." Variously compared to Emily Dickenson and Elizabeth Bishop, Wetzsteon displays her range of poetic voices and verse forms with an uncommon virtuosity. Her second collection features a musically resonant sonnet sequence, a poignant elegy for W. H. Auden, modern engagements with the world of myth, Narcissus, ...
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Overview

Rachel Wetzsteon has been hailed by John Hollander as the writer of the "most impressive verse I have seen by anyone of her generation" and by Richard Howard as the "most variously gifted of our new poets." Variously compared to Emily Dickenson and Elizabeth Bishop, Wetzsteon displays her range of poetic voices and verse forms with an uncommon virtuosity. Her second collection features a musically resonant sonnet sequence, a poignant elegy for W. H. Auden, modern engagements with the world of myth, Narcissus, Pomona and others, and honest yet artful meditations, Home and Away is a brilliantly descriptive, skillful experimentation in verse.

From the title poem, "Home and Away":

and if a loving pair was what it took to turn a cityscape from brown to bright, both pair and city gained from the exchange-- it gave us history, we gave it life. Or so I figured.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The mischievous, incessantly social poems of Wetzsteon's second collection (following The Other Stars) cruise through erotically charged and haunted urban spaces, Ovidian greenhouses and the skeptical minds of cultural misfits. The opening sequence of 50 sonnets documents a doomed love affair in which hushed, blurred voices display entangled feelings of indignation and self-annihilation, but yield to Wetzsteon's talent for achieving a balanced wit: "And if a loving pair was what it took/ to turn a cityscape from brown to bright,/ both pair and city gained from the exchange--/ it gave us history, we gave it life." The next section's belated, sincere elegy for W.H. Auden addresses the difficulty of being a young poet coming at the end of a long line of older disciples. Other lyrics, especially the series of Browningesque monologues, like "Witness" and "Pomona"--the latter a hilarious parody of the garden-poem--present a delightful array of brash loners, as do the dark, defiant "Surgical Moves" and "Tagalong" ("I know I'm fraudulent, that wishing for/ a public version of my paler games/ is like excusing filth and slaughter as/ the visionary gleam someone had"). Readers may sometimes find themselves yearning, like the tired and fascinated narrator of "The Late Show," for "a duller but more intimate story," but Wetzsteon's sheen of elegance and formal poise is designed to show how "when we take our masks off/ new ones take their place." (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
The second book of formally pleasing poems by the author of The Other Stars (1994) allows its smooth measures to mask any real complexity: these deft sonnets, elegies, aubades, and pastorals return again and again to matters of romance. The title sequence of fifty sonnets more or less follows the course of a relationship that seems to begin on a park bench in the city, and involves looking at art together, but mainly finds the poet on her "moral throne" lecturing about the ways of love. Acknowledging her own failures as a conventional seducer"she refuses to make the scene in flashy clothes, or engage in mindless bar chatter"she also scorns those who seek the solace of marriage, house, and children. Some sonnets pause on lighter things: a beautiful bit on a snow globe, and a Keatsian stunner on a museum"s marble head. But the sequence itself ends with an apparent suicide attempt, though hardly as manic-driven as that of Plath or Sexton. Wetzsteon eschews such edgy intensity throughout here, even as she imagines herself a tortured martyr for poetry ("The Triumph of Marsyas"), a leper wanting to blend with the cityscape ("A Leper in the City"), and a clubfoot as a rhythm-keeper ("Clubfoot"). So desperate at times for self-drama, Wetzsteon seems a wannabe "Eastern European poet, witnessing through verse ("Witness") or hoping for a war to animate her soul ("Tagalong").
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140588927
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/15/1998
  • Series: Penguin Poets Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Table of Contents

Home and Away 1
Abstract Aubade 31
A Rival 33
The Late Show 35
In Memory of W. H. Auden 37
Another View of the Ideal Person 42
Poem for a New Year 43
Chasing Spring 45
Duet 47
Going Public 48
Brief Encounters 49
Learning from the Movies 51
Holy Days 52
Spigot Variations 55
Forest Murmurs 58
Thoughts While Walking 61
The Triumph of Marsyas 65
A Leper in the City 67
The Significant Spot 69
Excerpts from a Botanist's Journal 71
Tagalong 75
Witness 78
Pomona 80
Surgical Moves 82
Clubfoot 83
Magnetism 85
Narcissus on the Move 87
The Lookout 93
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