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Poet Rachel Wetzsteon Dies at 42

‘New Republic’ poetry editor, bard of Morningside Heights

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Sad news from the Upper West Side: talented young poet Rachel Wetzsteon was found dead, apparently a suicide. Tablet Magazine book reviewer Adam Kirsch, an expert on 20th-century poetry who moreover worked with Wetzsteon at The New Republic (where she was poetry editor), had this to say about her: “at 42, she was one of the best poets of her generation, distinguished by her natural gift for form, her tough urban romanticism, and her appealing combination of melancholy and wit.”

In particular, those (like myself) who have spent lots of time in Morningside Heights may smile, and feel not a little awe, at how much insight and beauty Wetzsteon was able to wring out of her sleepy, university-town upper Manhattan neighborhood. In “Short Ode to Morningside Heights,” Wetzsteon juxtaposes the grad-school chatter at the Hungarian Pastry Shop with the towering Cathedral of St. John the Divine across Amsterdam Avenue:

The pastry shop’s abuzz
with crazy George and filthy graffiti,
but the peacocks are strutting across the way
and the sumptuous cathedral gives
the open-air banter a reason to deepen:
build structures inside the mind, it tells
the languorous talkers, to rival the ones outside!

Rachel Wetzsteon, Poet of Keen Insight and Wit, Dies at 42 [NYT]
In Memory, and Admiration, of Rachel Wetzsteon [TNR]

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I don’t know poetry or the Jewish faith or any of these things. I became fascinated with her poem, SAKURA PARK. It is sad that the whole world, like me, wants to reach out to someone after they are gone.

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Poet Rachel Wetzsteon Dies at 42

‘New Republic’ poetry editor, bard of Morningside Heights

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