The Other Stars

Chosen for inclusion in the 1993 National Poetry Series by formalist John Hollander, Wetzsteon’s loquacious debut revels in rhyme and exhibits facility with sonnets, sestinas, and ballad meters. She tempers a potentially mawkish obsession with betrayal and abandonment through a world-weary sense of irony both Auden and Hardy would applaud, realizing that even “fantasies need hard facts to get them started,/vibrant dyes a firmly fixed, local color.” Love’s contradictions (“Why, when every third thought concerns you, would I/ want to destroy you?”), as revealed in dreams and in the liberal application of Ruskin’s pathetic fallacy, are mapped and detailed with relish. But the veneer of technique can force a journalistic blandness (“Apparently unwilling to accept/the carnage of the outing as sacrifice/the phantom headed homeward for the hill”) or a thick, chalky diction (“I keep seeking this pleasure-giving eye mote”) that risks obfuscating the poem’s trajectory. The forms seem filled in rather than fleshed out. Such missteps aside, this poet could be one to watch in the years to come.

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Selected by

John Hollander