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Ninety-fifth Street: Poems Paperback – September 8, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061768235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061768231
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,929,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Always thoughtful and heartfelt, Koethe's poems have become simply heartbreaking. Koethe—a 60-something professor of philosophy—writes meditative, introspective poems that have long encouraged comparisons to Wallace Stevens, and Stevens's poems of old age remain on his mind. But Koethe now makes his Stevensian techniques and his sinuous sentences serve a pellucid, omnipresent, all-American nostalgia, for the sights and streets where he grew up and for the promise of youth. Part one considers the sunlit San Diego of his childhood, the diminished Rust Belt aura of Milwaukee, where he lives, and the way that, in poems, anywhere can be everywhere: I wish the presence of the everyday could be enough, he muses. It isn't, though. It's something incomplete. Part two (a letdown) considers Berlin, where the poet lived for a year; part three (a triumph) investigates, in quietly and carefully metrical lines, the consolation of old age; the excitements of a remembered New York; the fun Koethe had at a dinner party (on 95th Street, in 1966) where he met Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery; and the purpose of art and memory. That's what poetry is, the title poem muses, a way to live through time,/ And sometimes, just for a while, to bring it back. (Sept.)
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“Always thoughtful and heartfelt, Koethe’s poems have become simply heartbreaking. Koethe…writes meditative, introspective poems that have long encouraged comparisons to Wallace Stevens.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“His best book yet...accessible and surprisingly powerful sense that Koethe slowly approaches death the way that he does life—with an unusual and infectious lightness.” (Time Out New York)

More About the Author

John Koethe has been Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the first Poet Laureate of Milwaukee. His collections include North Point North, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Falling Water, which won the Kingsley-Tufts Award. In 2005, John Koethe was a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin; in 2008, he was the Elliston Poet in Residence at the University of Cincinnati; and in 2010, he was the Bain-Swiggett Professor of Poetry at Princeton University. In 2011, he received the Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Milkaukee, Wisconsin.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By B. Albanese on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
It would be easy to be highly critical of this book. Many of the poems are so discursive that they don't seem to be
poems at all. There is an ease to the recondite musings of this mature man which would seem to point to a laxity of technique.
( Indeed there are apologies for poetry expressed within the poems: " I used to love poetry, and mostly I still do,
Though sometimes 'I too,dislike it.' There must be Something real beyond the fiddle and prefunctory Consolations
and the quarrels...." { Ninety-Fifth Street }. Interesting, that he couches his
apology for poetry by refernece to M. Moore's poem.

One can point to the extremely long lines-- rambling on to 17 and 18 syllables-- long lines which would confute memory's ability to assimilate them, and mock them for their lack of concision, their resistance to honing.

One can criticize the poems for their facile cultural references which do not challenge our intellect: NPR, the World Book, " Ground Hog Day " and " The Spy Who Came In from The Cold " are mentioned in serious reflections.

One can wince at instances of political correctness which lurk in the demeanor of these poems:
"No one wants to be like someone else
For each one thinks he's special and indeed he is." ( The Recluse )

And one can chide the poet for his seemingly dispassionate response to stimuli which inspired his poems and leads
to some banal statements:

"If it was good enough for Eliot to write about
I guess it's good enough for me...." ( North Cambridge )

One almost wants to be rude and dismiss him by remarking that as his name is one letter off from being that of
the great poet-philospher, his poetry is just shy of being necessary.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on June 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
"John Koethe was born in San Diego, California, in 1945. He is not only a fine poet, but also a professor of philosophy and the the author of a book on Wittgenstein's thought... Reviewers inevitably compare him to Wallace Stevens because both are supposedly fond of philosophizing abstractly... The difference is Koethe examines ideas in a far more autobiographical way. He tells us about his life and his feelings with a directness that Stevens would never have allowed himself... Koethe is aware of his proclivity to lose himself in sentimental reveries. His poems, as he admits, are more or less convoluted variations on a single emotion and idea: true understanding lay in childhood. That makes them all sound as if they were parts of a long poem, a contemporary version of Wordsworth's "The Prelude," whose subject once again is the growth of the poet's mind..." -- Charles Simic
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