Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Poet and...

SSo I'm kind of bummed tonight.

I was on the Poetry Foundation website as I'm teaching a short poetry lesson at my daughter's school tomorrow and I click on this poem: On Leaving the Bachelorette Brunch and I am in love. The poet? Rachel Wetzsteon, a poet who I have never heard of! (I don't think I've heard of and here she is with all these poems I've never read.) I've found a new poet and whose work I love. I am giddy.

I choose another poem: Short Ode to Screwball Women and another: Blue Octavo Haiku.

I'm excited, who is she? Is she on Facebook? I start reading her bio. She's published 3 books of poems! Three! I'm excited, that 3 new books for me to read. She's an editor too. I'm in love with this new (old) poet. She's a couple years older than me. 42. But we're close, my new poet and I, she gets me.

And then I come to it. Then I notice the (1967-2009) by her name. What?

I google. What I find: Rachel Wetzsteon, Poet of Keen Insights and Wit, Dies at 42. I'm heartbroken. And it seems she was too. Suicide. Christmas eve or Christmas morning 2009. Just a few months ago. No, not another poet lost.

Dear Rachel,
You were too young.


So I'm sad. And bummed. And heartbroken too.

I'll leave you with Rachel's words from her poem because she should be the one speaking here, not me. I'm just someone who found her poems today, looking for something else, I found her. And she's gone.

Sakura Park
(published originally in Poetry Magazine & the book of poems by the same name)

The park admits the wind,

the petals lift and scatter

like versions of myself I was on the verge

of becoming; and ten years on

and ten blocks down I still can’t tell

whether this dispersal resembles

a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.

But the petals scatter faster,

seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor,

and at least I’ve got by pumping heart

some rules of conduct: refuse to choose

between turning pages and turning heads

though the stubborn dine alone. Get over

“getting over”: dark clouds don’t fade

but drift with ever deeper colors.

Give up on rooted happiness

(the stolid trees on fire!) and sweet reprieve

(a poor park but my own) will follow.

There is still a chance the empty gazebo

will draw crowds from the greater world.

And meanwhile, meanwhile’s far from nothing:

the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees.

--Rachel Wetzsteon


  1. I had heard about her death from, a friend of Rachel Wetzsteon, Jennifer Michael Hecht's article, "Stay" in the Boston Globe (it was original a blog post) about suicide and how it hurts the community. The article is a plea for suicidal individuals to stay. It's quite beautiful and soulful. Here is the link: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/02/07/stay/

  2. I heard Rachel read at Amherst College quite a few years ago, back when her first book was new. It was a rainy night, and she was wonderful.

  3. Doreen-- It is. so so sad.

    Anon-- Thank you. I read Jennifer's words. Lovely. I appreciate you linking me to that.

  4. I didn't know about Rachel's work until I heard about her death. I had read Hecht's article a few weeks ago. I think it is (without being melodramatic) heartbeakingly beautiful.

  5. I had a workshop with her and heard her read about 10 years ago. I was shocked and sad when I found out. She was great.

  6. I just saw via the Poem-a-Day email that there is a forthcoming collection called Silver Roses. She must have completed it before her death.


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