The Constructor: Poems

John Koethe, Author
John Koethe, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (63p) ISBN 978-0-06-019303-4
Paperback - 108 pages - 978-0-06-095635-6
Ebook - 80 pages - 978-0-06-197275-1
Open Ebook - 80 pages - 978-0-06-179734-7
Ebook - 80 pages - 978-0-06-179739-2
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 80 pages - 978-0-06-179737-8
Show other formats
FORMATS
Few poets can compete with Koethe's long lines for their prosy clarity or their oneiric intensity, sounding out ""how intricate a tone of voice could be, or how evasive/ The direct approach to life could finally become."" For Koethe, past obsessions--like the fantasy of disembodiment of Falling Water (1997)--are always found lacking when matched against present desires: ""Pining Away,"" an autobiographical reworking of the Narcissus myth, and the Dickinson nod ""`I Heard a Fly Buzz...'"" return insistently to epiphanic moments only to find them outrun: ""I/ Think that I was wrong to see my body as a kind of place/ From which the soul, as entropy increases, migrates/ In an upward-moving spiral of completion."" While his Proustian sense of how imagination affects memory lends poignancy to his meditations in this fifth collection, the poet's debt to Stevens often treads a thin line between flashy allusion and direct borrowing (""the intricate evasions warming up again""; ""conditions of mere being""). And sometimes Koethe, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, understands too well the subtlety of thought, and the result, in long poems like ""Mistral"" and the title poem, is a lyric voice too self-consciously ambivalent, lapsing into disenchanted abstraction and dwelling too long in constructed ambiguities. Koethe is at his best when austere, nostalgic and exacting, when the emptiness that frustrates his nothing-if-not-self-critical speakers ripens into reconciliation with the ""increasingly composite individual"" we all occasionally fear ourselves to have become. (Apr.)
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X