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,
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.”)
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.