cover image Home and Away

Home and Away

Rachel Wetzsteon, Author Puffin Books $14.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-14-058892-7

The mischievous, incessantly social poems of Wetzsteon's second collection (following The Other Stars) cruise through erotically charged and haunted urban spaces, Ovidian greenhouses and the skeptical minds of cultural misfits. The opening sequence of 50 sonnets documents a doomed love affair in which hushed, blurred voices display entangled feelings of indignation and self-annihilation, but yield to Wetzsteon's talent for achieving a balanced wit: ""And if a loving pair was what it took/ to turn a cityscape from brown to bright,/ both pair and city gained from the exchange--/ it gave us history, we gave it life."" The next section's belated, sincere elegy for W.H. Auden addresses the difficulty of being a young poet coming at the end of a long line of older disciples. Other lyrics, especially the series of Browningesque monologues, like ""Witness"" and ""Pomona""--the latter a hilarious parody of the garden-poem--present a delightful array of brash loners, as do the dark, defiant ""Surgical Moves"" and ""Tagalong"" (""I know I'm fraudulent, that wishing for/ a public version of my paler games/ is like excusing filth and slaughter as/ the visionary gleam someone had""). Readers may sometimes find themselves yearning, like the tired and fascinated narrator of ""The Late Show,"" for ""a duller but more intimate story,"" but Wetzsteon's sheen of elegance and formal poise is designed to show how ""when we take our masks off/ new ones take their place."" (Oct.)