HOME AND AWAY by Rachel Wetzsteon


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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—). For all her stylistic sophistication, this self-described “bard of the usual” sometimes sounds like the weepy singer/songwriters of pop music.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-14-058892-2
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998