Synopses & Reviews
This bittersweet posthumous collection solidifies Rachel Wetzsteon's place among the most talented poets of her generation. Written with her characteristic wit, incisiveness, and flair, it confirms her as a peerless flaneuse of New York City, a skeptical yet large-hearted bookworm with spot-on takes about culture, love, and loss.
"Gifts for wry humor, stanzaic and rhyming forms, and literary allusion animate the best parts of this sometimes sparkling fourth and final collection from Wetzsteon, who built up a serious reputation (in part for light verse) before she took her own life in December 2009. Delight in set forms, in wit and verbal games, and even inside jokes will stand out on first reading. 'Pursuits of Happiness' retells the plots of Hollywood comedies in stanza forms from 17th-century metaphysical poems: 'Go, and fetch the chilled champagne.' The very next page addresses Ludwig Wittgenstein's famous philosophical illustration, the always-ambiguous head that could be either rabbit or duck, in stunt-worthy rhyme: 'realists... shun the appeal its/ rare white fur holds, although they feel it's/ a rabbit full of pluck.' But to read through the collection is to see, gradually, the screens of humor open on real fears: of existential dread and failed romantic love. The more clearly personal poems may not highlight her particular talents, but they stick in the mind. They are rueful, regretful, frustrated, if never quite desperate: Wetzsteon calls 'misanthropy my default mode, my armor'; her poems about urban life, love life, family life do often seem to grin through tears. (Nov.) Richardson is one of the finest poets now writing, and the best contemporary practitioner of the art of aphorism, as this eighth collection of poems and aphorisms will attest. Richardson's aphorisms--of which there are 170 in this book--are nothing short of genius, concise, reflexive, witty, wise, and startlingly true: 'Spontaneity takes a few rehearsals,' reads one; 'Beware of speaking of The Rich as if they were someone else,' reads another; 'Loving yourself is about as likely as tickling yourself,' says a third, and there's much more where these came from. In his poems, Richardson speaks with a world-weary voice that is also at times cautiously optimistic, managing to view the world from intimately personal and omniscient vantage points at the same time. One group of poems tries to take the measure of experience via numbers, letters, and 'The stars in order of/ magnitude.' Another suite anchored in Greek myths finds new resonance for old stories: 'Did a god steal her daughter/ or has she been living all this time in Manhattan...?' Throughout, Richardson's aphoristic powers resurface, yielding stellar lines. Richardson deserves wider recognition, and this book should earn it. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Rachel Wetzsteon achieves maturity and mastery in this poignant collection."--Harold Bloom
About the Author
Rachel Wetzsteon's collections include Sakura Park and Silver Roses. At the time of her death, she was the poetry editor of The New Republic and lived in New York City.