Rachel Wetzsteon

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Rachel Wetzsteon
Rachel Wetzsteon.jpg
Born (1967-11-25)November 25, 1967
New York City
Died December 25, 2009(2009-12-25) (aged 42)
New York City
Nationality American
Alma mater Johns Hopkins University; Columbia University
Genre Poetry

Rachel Todd Wetzsteon (/ˈwɛtstn/;[1] November 25, 1967 – December 24/25?, 2009) was an American poet.[2]


Born in New York City, New York, the daughter of editor Ross Wetzsteon, she graduated from Yale University in 1989 where she studied with Marie Borroff and John Hollander. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University with an MA, and from Columbia University with a Ph.D. She taught at Barnard College.

She lived in Manhattan and went on to teach at William Paterson University[3] and the Unterberg Poetry Center of the Ninety-Second Street Y.

Her work appeared in many publications including The New Yorker,[4] The Paris Review, The New Republic,[5] The Nation,[6] and The Village Voice.[7] She was poetry editor of The New Republic.

Wetzsteon committed suicide on Dec. 24 or early on the 25th, 2009.[1][8] Since 2010, a writing prize has been offered in her memory in the Columbia University English Department.[9]



  • "Gold Leaves"; "Five-Finger Exercise", THE CORTLAND REVIEW, ISSUE 32, June 2006
  • "At the Zen Mountain Monastery", Very Like a Whale, September 7, 2006
  • "Pemberley". The Nation. October 3, 2002.
  • "Manhattan Triptych"; "Sakura Park", Poetry Daily






In a perfect world, Rachel Wetzsteon would be one of the most popular poets of her generation. You would see people in the outdoor cafes along Upper Broadway reading copies of Sakura Park, her third collection, the way pilgrims to Greenwich Village carry Scott Fitzgerald or Edna St. Vincent Millay. For Wetzsteon's poems manage to turn Morningside Heights—a quiet, bourgeois neighborhood near Columbia University, home to the park of her title—into a theater of romance, an intellectual haven, a flaneur's paradise. Her poems evoke the kind of life that generations of young people have come to New York to live—earnest, glamorous, and passionate, full of sex and articulate suffering...[10]

Rachel Wetzsteon’s inheritance from W.H. Auden (she’s the author of Influential Ghosts: A Study of Auden’s Sources) is nowhere more apparent than in her third collection. Just as in Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” where life goes on as Icarus plunges into the sea, Wetzsteon has set a tale of personal heartbreak against the bustling, vivid life of New York City.[11]


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