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"John Koethe's The Constructor is a scrupulous, elegant account of the meditative intellect as an instrument continually registering the passage of time. Exquisitely modulated and brutally honest, these poems would be harrowing were they not so seductively beautiful. No one writing in this country today sees as deeply as Koethe into the tears that lie at the heart of things, and no contemporary investigation of the life of the mind may be called complete that does not ...
"John Koethe's The Constructor is a scrupulous, elegant account of the meditative intellect as an instrument continually registering the passage of time. Exquisitely modulated and brutally honest, these poems would be harrowing were they not so seductively beautiful. No one writing in this country today sees as deeply as Koethe into the tears that lie at the heart of things, and no contemporary investigation of the life of the mind may be called complete that does not accommodate the lush intricacy of his terrifying recognitions."
-- George Bradley
"I prize John Koethe's intimate expanses and unsettling reveries, his tender contemplations and odd mental landscapes. He is an heir to Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery and, like them, he gives us the sensation of thinking itself, of a certain fleeting, daily, solitary consciousness rescued from oblivion and held aloft."
-- Edward Hirsch
Ideas as crystals and the logic of a violin:
The intricate evasions warming up again
For another raid on the inarticulate. And soon
The morning melody begins, the oranges and the tea,
The introspective walk about the neighborhood,
The ambient noise, the low lapping of water over stones.
The peace one finds encounters one alone,
In the memories of books, or half-remembered songs,
Or in the mild enchantments of the passive mood:
To hesitate, to brood, to linger in the library and then,
As from some green and sunny chair, arise and go.
The noons seem darker, and the adolescent
Boys who used to hang around the parking lot are gone.
More water in the eyes, more dissonant musicians in the subways,
And from the font of sense a constant, incidental drone.
It is a kind of reconfiguration, and the solitary exercise
That seeks to reaffirm its name seems hollow. The sun is lower inthe sky,
And as one turns towards what had felt like home,
The windows start to flicker with a loveless flame,
As though the chambers they concealed were empty. Is this
How heaven feels? The same perspective from a different room,
In a suspended moment-as a silver airplane silently ascends
And life., at least as one has known it, slides away?
I thought that people understood these things.
They show the gradual encroachment of a vast,
Impersonal system of exchanges on that innermostdomain
In which each object meant another one, all singing each to each
In a beautiful regress of forgetting. Nature as a language
Faithful to its terms, yet with an almost human face
That took the dark, romantic movements of desire, love, and loss
And gave them flesh and brought them into view;
Replaced by emblems of a rarefied sublime,
Like Cantor's Paradise, or Edward Witten staring into space
As the leaves fell and a little dog raced through them in the park.
Was any of that mine? Was it ever anyone's?
Time makes things seem more solid than they were,
Yet these imaginary things-the dolphins and the bells, the sunny
And the bright, green wings, the distant islet on the lake-
Were never barriers, but conditions of mere being, an enchanting haze
That takes one in and like a mild surprise gives way,
As though the things that one had strained against were shards of
The evening air feels sweeter. The moon,
Emerging from a maze of clouds into the open sky,
Casts a thin light on the trees. Infinitely far away,
One almost seems to hear-as though the fingers of a solitary giant
Traced the pure and abstract schema of those strings
In a private movement of delight-the soundless syllables'
Ambiguous undulations, like the murmur of bees.