Home and Away (Poets, Penguin)

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9780140588927: Home and Away (Poets, Penguin)

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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From Publishers 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."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Wetzsteon is already a much honored poet, and her second collection confirms her high status. A virtuoso of form, she breathes an astonishing amount of life into her crisply composed poems. The title poem, a series of sonnets, displays her tight control and free-flowing imagination, her sharp intelligence and swirling emotions, her sensitivity and worldliness. It begins from the vantage point of a park bench and spirals out into myth and eros through observations of nature, strangers, and art. The feisty narrator looks skeptically into the windows of mansions and longingly out of the portals of her apartment, contemplating love's dance and the taunt of mortality. Her other poems are shaped by a disarming knowingness and a determinedly unsentimental approach to poetics. Wetzsteon looks at flowers and sees intimations of lust and danger; she embraces the halt as well as the agile; and, chin up, shoulders squared, she dismisses all notion of a panacea, earning our trust as well as our admiration. Donna Seaman

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