Sakura Park

Rachel Wetzsteon, Author . Persea $16.50 (115p) ISBN 978-0-89255-324-2

In this accessible yet sinuous third collection, New York City's landscape becomes a subtle metaphor for a complex inner life in which hope makes room for despair and joyful recklessness attempts to coexist with sober wisdom. Using a variety of forms—from sonnets, haikus and ghazals to extended free verse and prose poems—Wetzsteon probes disturbing contradictions: "the heart's response is a matter of / degree, not kind—whether the ax is lifted / in ardor or in fury, the frozen sea still melts." She revels in melancholy, imploring, "[t]ake me back / to where thunder claps in minds and skies / and hearts are glad to be unhappy," and admits that there is safety in identifying with one's own pain: "I'm lost without my precious wounds; scrape the welts away and there's no one left to be kind to." Finally, in the title poem, set in a park near the poet's New York home, where "petals lift and scatter / like versions of myself I was on the verge / of becoming," Wetzsteon (Home and Away , 1998) acknowledges the futility, and also the necessity, of her struggle: while awaiting "sweet reprieve /... / meanwhile's far from nothing:/ the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees." These poems are deep and artfully crafted. (July 7)