The solitary yet defiant lives of single women

Via hbdbooks, the poetry editor of The New Republic has defiled every flower by refusing to live for its sake.

Rachel Wetzsteon, a prominent poet

Other employees of The New Republic attended her readings, usually conducted at her favorite deli. It was her only local source of plasticware made solely from recycled materials. She found the brittle knives perfect instruments of her other, more meaningful art, cutting. “She never knew when one would shatter under the pressure required to break her skin,” said her life coach. “Life is unpredictability, and the artist in Rachel craved life.”

whose work was known for its mordant wit, formal elegance and cleareyed examination of the solitary yet defiant lives of single women,

And cats. Many cats. You must not forget about the cats.

was found dead on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 42.

As do all poets known for wit, elegance, and cutting, she had finally found the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Ms. Wetzsteon, who died apparently late on Dec. 24 or early on the 25th, committed suicide, said her mother, Sonja Wetzsteon.

Her body was found merely four days later. Ms. Wetzsteon Sr. explained the early discovery of her daughter’s body: “I had gone to confront her over stealing my boyfriend.”

Widely praised by critics, Ms. Wetzsteon’s work appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Nation and elsewhere.

She published her most piquant works at Barnes and Noble in her blood on the bathroom wall.

Hard-edged yet sinuous,

Like a penis.

rich with feeling yet unsentimental,

Like a penis.

Ms. Wetzsteon’s poems have a distinctly urban disposition.

As opposed to the vast majority of the poets eulogized by the New York Times, who led a pastoral existence where trees and flowers didn’t deliberately call them out and go beep in their ear.

By turns angry,

Astonish me.


Like, cutting and Mazzy Star melancholy, or carousel-of-cock melancholy? Both? Okay, right.

hopeful and comic,

“She was no Margaret Cho,” her life coach admitted.

they explore the sensibilities of women as they fall in and out of love.

Ah, the whimsy of whoredom. How incredibly, ineluctably fraught with insight is my well-worn vagina.

The city, in particular the West Side of Manhattan, is seldom far from view.

I was totally going to make a joke about the West Side, before I even saw this bit. Now I feel it would be futile. Like the lives of everyone who doesn’t live there! Ba-da-bing!

Reviewing the collection, Booklist wrote, “A virtuoso of form, she breathes an astonishing amount of life into her crisply composed poems.”

Booklist is easily astonished by solitary, yet defiant single women.

It added, “Chin up, shoulders squared, she dismisses all notion of a panacea, earning our trust as well as our admiration.”

Dear Booklist, please trust and admire Ms. Wetzsteon chin up all the way into a well-tied noose. Square your shoulders as you asphyxiate, while you’re at it.

Rachel Todd Wetzsteon was born in Manhattan on Nov. 25, 1967. (The family name is pronounced “whetstone.”)

Raymond Luxury-Yacht.

Her parents divorced when she was young

All the news that’s fit to report.

Ms. Wetzsteon earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale, a master’s from Johns Hopkins and a Ph.D. from Columbia

Parents take note: these schools gave this woman degrees of various sorts.

She taught for many years at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y.

I want to mock this, but it actually raises pity in me. Do not worry, friends, it will pass.

The NYT prints one of her poems in full. My pity passes.

The park admits the wind,

“That’ll be four dollars. Six if you want to swim.”

the petals lift and scatter

like versions of myself I was on the verge

of becoming; and ten years on

A semicolon in the middle of a line, plus an unnecessary conjunction? Were you in Theater in high school? Seriously, it’s not like you were trying to conform to a strict meter or something.

On the upside, Ms. Whetstone has given us a key insight into the mindset of females: “versions of myself I was on the verge of becoming”. Listen, poor sad lady. You want versions of yourself? Try having children.

and ten blocks down I still can’t tell


whether this dispersal resembles

a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.

Fisting, there’s your problem.

But the petals scatter faster,

seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor

I would pay money to see William Shatner recite this.

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.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

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.

I love the smell of despair in the morning. Smells like victory.


Filed under Civilization, Feral Females

50 responses to “The solitary yet defiant lives of single women

  1. Awesomeness: someone already found this post by searching for “rachel wetzsteon”. I hope it was a vanity search by someone who knew her.

  2. Alkibiades

    Her whole life just one sad cliche.

  3. Bahahahahah, that was the most delightfully cruel piece I’ve read in some time.

  4. Alkibiades, that is part of what led me to write this. While I despise suicide, I still have pity for the fools who blot out the world. I have none for the perverts who would praise them.

  5. Ferdinand, you should have seen the time I used the Chesterton line about suicide on my dad about his little sister.

  6. G, that was cryptic. Do you mean which Chesterton line?

    It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.

  7. G


    But I don’t think women are very fond of relativism.

    It’s like when you tell them that even if they lost their house and have credit problems, they are the lucky ones : 1 billion people still don’t have access to drinkable water.
    You always get those two big eyes.

  8. michelle yackel

    Your use of the second person is an imbecilic conceit. Did you come all over her face, in your mind’s eye, after all that? Wank, wank. Here’s a thought: blog about a poem or person of whom you think well. I know, how jejeune would that be? Who would you score points with? No one you would know, clearly. Better to score off the dead.
    Silly, she’s not there. Those of us who knew her personally won’t much care one way or the other about your crapulence, barring my personal appreciation: the reminder that one cannot assume a world full of people who are cool (like Rachel basically was) is well taken. I don’t understand why her poems are so acclaimed, myself. But I’m not a savvy critic, like you, so I let that be. Is there not more to life than clocking the superfluous conjunctions of people one hates? In fact, there is. :)

  9. Hi, Michelle. This fisking was for The New Republic, the New York Times, Booklist, and for you. Yes, you, and any other sad females living solitary, defiant lives.

    Remember how Odysseus treated the unfaithful maids when he returned in his glory.

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  12. I gave up writing poetry like that decades ago.

    Michelle, when someone takes their own life it is a sad situation. Having seriously considered heading down that road, I can appreciate why people will do so.

    However, this does not mean that you should lionize someone, or laud them as being better than they are.

    People are people, and as my sister told her teenage daughter when said child was threatening to kill herself, “If you do that, then the only person gone will be you. The rest of us will still be here.”

    Rachel is gone, by her own hand, and it’s a waste of a human life.

    Her obituary was so florid it deserved a fisking.

  13. mongo

    Wank, Wank? Jejeune? Clocking superfluous conjunctions?

    God I hate poets.

  14. I missed her use of “jejeune”. Priceless.

  15. Phillipa Adolpho

    How fucking dare you. OP and anyone who found delight in the misery – not only of someone who was so distraught and lost that they chose to take their own life – but of those who still struggle to understand, accept and move forward.

    Rachel was my friend, and if you were standing in front of me right now, I would likely physically fucking hurt you. How would YOU feel if someone took the time to write something as pathetic and insensitive as this slop (which you likely consider talent) about someone you cared for?

    You piece of shit; YOU are the cliche. And you’re lucky you have the Internet to hide behind.

  16. How fucking dare you?

    Well, um, I suppose I just fucking dared. Men do that. We dare, sometimes. When we’re not fucking, we’re daring. Occasionally we fucking dare at the same time. I admit, I get confused, too.

    On a serious note: by what standard do you judge me? Are you also a servant of Odysseus? Rachel clearly wasn’t, or she’d have waited for his return.

    someone who was so distraught and lost that they chose to take their own life

    That’s not how it works. Suicides want to destroy the world. Rachel wanted to blot you out, too.

    but of those who still struggle to understand, accept and move forward.

    I agree that it is hard to understand how someone could hate you so much she would kill herself. Had she been capable of loving you, she would have accepted life.

    If you were standing in front of me right now, I would likely physically fucking hurt you.

    Would you have a weapon already on you? Would you surprise me with it? Because as a woman, without a surprise knife or handgun attack, you have a negligible chance of hurting me.

    How would YOU feel if someone took the time to write something as pathetic and insensitive as this slop?

    I wouldn’t ever find it, as I’m not a female who does vanity searches.

    which you likely consider talent

    Naw, I buried my talent for safekeeping.

    You piece of shit

    I am the worst of sinners, it’s true.

    YOU are the cliche.

    This sounds good, but what does it mean?

    And you’re lucky you have the Internet to hide behind.

    Dear Internet Tough Girl, where were you when Rachel needed you to find her body before the cats got hungry?

  17. Pingback: Two! Two Haters! « Riding with the King

  18. theblanque

    Damn–I’m impressed; no less than two haters.

    All I got were a couple of drive-by snarkers for my Mary Daly posts.

    I bow to your skill in eviscerating the witless, sir.

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  20. Caroline Keeny

    You are sick, quite sick – and your ignorance is unforgivable. To degrade any person who suffers and dies from mental illness indicates not only a lack of compassion and empathy but an ignorance of the illness, medicine, science and human beings. Study the statistics of suicide by men and women worldwide and you would realize that it is as devastating an illness as malaria, heart disease and AIDS. Doubtless many suicides are the result of engaging with judgmental and ignorant persons such as yourself in the world.

  21. Caroline helps make the case for repealing the 19th.

  22. Whim

    The cancer will start in your bowels. It will spread, until from every corner of your frame, from every nerve ending, a choir of exquisite pain will resound, and that chorus, fruit of tumors and of an array of physiological derangements, will raise up groans and shrieks and howls: at last, you articulate a truth, through the gurgle of pus and vomit in your throat, you will demand death, beg for death, implore the gods to release your shocked self, which gazes barely comprehending at the revolting wasted body that your swollen self had thought to rule. The reality of pain will wipe away your imbecilic viciousness, and purify you, and you won’t think any longer to be the Sophisticated Lady, as wet feces released by your withered sphincter flood your leg and pool in the open sores that cover you, releasing agonies that break through the veil of morphine: a small price to pay, to be rid of the shallow, pathetic, fatuous, narcissistic, malignant thing you had been.

  23. I’m not sure, but I think Whim is describing the torments reserved for poet suicides. Reminiscent of Dan Simmons, but I prefer Dante.

  24. Hurf

    This post served as some kind of sociopathic sexual outlet back when your pathetic wife was still bloated, right?

  25. “Wetzsteon”

    Nothing to add, other than her surname sounds like a geologic era, or maybe some extinct invertebrate.

  26. Or like a name from a romance novel.

  27. k

    How very mean-spirited and in poor taste. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who think themselves clever and yet have no soul. You alone have to live with yourself, poor man – and that must already be punishment enough.

  28. In the third place, the psychologist can help the military psychological warfare operator by helping him maintain his sense of mission and of proportion. The deadliest danger of propaganda consists of its being issued by the propagandist for his own edification. This sterile and ineffectual amusement can diguise the complete failure of the propaganda as propaganda. The propagandist, especially in wartime, is apt to tell the enemy what he thinks of him, or to deride the enemy weaknesses.

    Paul M. A. Linebarger, Psychological Warfare

  29. michelle yackel

    I reread this for old times sake today…funny thing – I actually did do theater in high school. You are the first to group me with the likes of the New Yorker and the Paris Review. All in one breath. I feel so, dunno, exalted! Well, truth be told, your bud finds my verbiage retarded (jejeune, ‘clocking’ [Frisco slang - apologies to the uninitiated]) and consigns poets to a like fate, but like I say, truth be told, wasn’t I suggested I might be in fact poet, so I gotta thank your bud for what a compliment? Puhlease. Versifier, yes. Poet? No. Way.

  30. Just out of curiosity, is there any way, in your cosmology, for a single woman to be acceptable at all, ever? Or is one simply doomed to being whorish, despondent, and defiant?

  31. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman who is a writer, must be whorish, despondent, and defiant.

  32. Pingback: Whorish, despondent, and defiant | Riding with the King

  33. ray

    How very mean-spirited and in poor taste. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who think themselves clever and yet have no soul

    he’s not going to hell, he’s making sure those who already reside stay there

    next up: the rest of the New Republic staff


  34. Judge not, lest ye be judged, as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said.

  35. Lolzlzlz

    One year later and this Yackel person is still thinking about you…

  36. Hail to the king, baby.

  37. Svar

    “One year later and this Yackel person is still thinking about you…”

    It’s called tingles, Lolzlzlz. It seems that Eumaios’s indifferent and masculine personality had been overwhelming poor Michelle Yackel-for a year.

  38. Svar is right. I won’t be satisfied with the quality of my haters, though, until they begin threatening not to copulate with me.

  39. Action

    Hmmm…you know I never knew about Ms. Wetzsteon until today. So I went to go check out her poetry, and do you know what?
    Its actually quite good…
    ….to use as birdcage liner.

    What amazes me is that this idiot actually made a living off of all of the retarded shit she wrote.

    Good riddance.

  40. What sort of life might Rachel have had if our sick world hadn’t coddled and cozened her into maddened spinsterhood?

  41. I don’t know why people wasted expressive words insulting you.

    “Judge not, lest ye be judged”

    Like you’ve been? :P

    “What sort of life might Rachel have had if our sick world hadn’t coddled and cozened her into maddened spinsterhood?”

    The one truly empathetic statement you’ve made here.

    “What amazes me is that this idiot actually made a living off of all of the retarded shit she wrote.

    Good riddance”

    You are the real piece of shit here.

  42. Geez Hurf, no need to insult the wife.

  43. Osiris

    “You are the real piece of shit here.”
    Not unless Action’s last name is Wetzsteon. No need to worry though, that turd flushed itself down a good long while ago.

  44. Alma True

    How did you get so powerful? It must feel Sooooo Gooooood. Cum on my face, you idiot woman-hater.

  45. Matthew

    $5 says “Alma True” is John Scalzi.

  46. Emily

    If you were wondering whether or not you are a disgusting human, the answer is yes.

  47. I’m not human. I’m neanderthal.

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