OPP #6: Rachel Wetzsteon

Sometimes you come upon a book that makes you happy and sad at the same time. Sakura Park by Rachel Wetzsteon is one of those books. I happened upon it at a used book store last year and fell in love with the poems. When I went looking for more of her work, I was saddened to discover that this talented poet had died in 2009. The poems in Sakura Park are artfully crafted and full of wit and imagery and the joys and sorrows of the world.  “Gusts” is just one example:


An agitation shakes the trees:

this tumult always seemed to me

the oldest motion, the turbulence

all others copied. As blossoms drift

down through the moist air, so blessings come

to those who wait long enough; when

pollen falls, the flight recalls

a fragile friendship dying. I never thought

that when petals touch the ground

the plenitude might stop there, the fragrance

be neither portent nor memory, but only

sweet smells lasting as long as the walk home.

It is spring; flowers are flying everywhere.

And all night a low voice chides me

for never giving my all to the moment;

a question forms and grows urgent

and won’t take no answer for an answer:

if I gave up stories, what would become

of the gust, and the scatter, and the stillness after?

Would the trees be robbed of what made them priceless

or let their riches loose as never before?


There is so much that I like about this poem. The attention to sound and the internal/end rhymes are brilliant. the choices are unexpected: moment/urgent; answer/scatter/after; turbulence/drift. The idea that something as simple as wind in the trees sets forth a meditation on the lasting and the ephemeral, the need to remember and to tell, is unique and familiar at the same time. Many of the poems in the book are like this – succinct and carefully crafted – while others are long poems in sections. All of them are memorable.

She authored two other collections, The Other Stars and Home and Away, and you can find some of her poems here.

If you want to write:

1. Choose a simple natural occurrence (wind in the trees, rain, lightning) and use it as a starting point for a poem about what lasts. End your poem with a question.

2.Write about a question that won’t take “no answer” for an answer. Use at least three rhymes in the poem.

6 thoughts on “OPP #6: Rachel Wetzsteon

  1. Her collection ‘Silver Roses’ (Persea Books) came out in 2010, after her death. She also wrote literary criticism, a book about her study of Auden’s sources. Her talent was immense.

  2. Pingback: Poetry Prompts Freeforall | Margo Roby: Wordgathering

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