Collected poems from America’s searching and thoughtful philosopher-poet
. . . There’s something
Comforting about rituals renewed, even adolescents’ pipe dreams:
They’ll find out soon enough, and meanwhile find their places
In the eternal scenery, less auguries or cautionary tales
Than parts of an unchanging whole, as ripe for contemplation
As a planisphere or the clouds: the vexed destinies, the shared life,
The sempiternal spectacle of someone preaching to the choir
While walking backwards in the moment on a warm spring afternoon.
John Koethe’s poems—always dynamic and in process, never static or complete—luxuriate in the questions that punctuate the most humdrum of routines, rendering a robust portrait of an individual: complicated, quotidian, and resounding with truth. Gathering for the first time his impressive and award-winning body of work, published between 1966 and 2016, Walking Backwards introduces this gifted poet to a new, wider readership.
About the Author
John Koethe has published several books of poetry, and has received the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, and the Frank O’Hara Award. He has also published books on Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosophical skepticism, and poetry, and is the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
John's poetry books include Walking Backwards and The Swimmer.
"This collection draws from 10 earlier books and concludes with new poems, and as Koethe writes more, he knows less: Whereas the earlier poems swell with certainty, the later revel in a secular version of what theologians call the mysterium tremendum, the fearful mystery we can neither fathom nor turn away from . . . When someone has been writing and publishing as long as he has, in such quantity and at such a high level of distinction, it’s not easy to put your finger on the moment at which his poetry stopped being one thing and became another. Still, it’s clear that at some point, something happened to him — life, maybe." —David Kirby, The New York Times Book Review