Saturday, June 19, 2010

Level - John Koethe

John Koethe (1945 - ), educated at Princeton and Harvard, teaches currently in the Midwest, I think at U of Winsconsin.)  While we are almost contemporaries - he's just a bit older - I am not familiar with his writing, though he is not an unknown and has been recognized with fellowships and prizes.  His bio (click on his name) is a little sparse, but at least he has one on the Poetry Foundation website(Aside: one of my pet peeves about poetry - and visual arts - is how critics often interfere with a reader/viewer's experience by either interpreting too much and/or making it about HIS / HER experience and biases through what they write.  A case in point is the bio on Koethe in the "Innisfree Poetry Journal" from which come this quote:  "In language that is often discursive, often plangent, always mesmeric in its lyricism...".  Now, I think I have a pretty good vocabulary, but I had to look up "plangent"!  Oh, wait.  It means ".. lamenting, often melancholy" and used chiefly in poetry/literature.  Hmm....  Next time academics and critics bemoan the state of poetry in this society, they might consider NOT USING WORDS THAT FURTHER SEPARATE THEM FROM A LARGER AUDIENCE!!! 

                                 A promise of so much to that is to come
                                 Extracted, accepted gladly
                                 But within its narrow limits

                                                               John Ashberry

Eventually, I’d hoped, I would please you.
I would call you the right names,
Bend with your gestures, remember your actions,
Extracting them gladly, but within real limits.

I see I was wrong. Shall I find you different?
Easy, supple, and without pain?
Or is energy part of the music?
I try. I am trying to ask you –

O the noises that cannot be touched!
The faces have passed me like a brown dream

For how can they change?
Always unbearably tender, and constant,
Like a house that is tender and constant.

You are like other people. There is
I suppose, no reason to want you
Unless desire itself is a reason, drawing us
Out of our kindness, leaving us terrified

Peace. Beauty, we know,
Is the center of fear, hammering,
Holding in a loose ring your purposeful
Dream – and you see them

Looking painfully into your face, though you know
They will never come back in the same way.

John Koethe

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