Let me stay there for a while, while evening
Gathers in the sky and daylight lingers on the hills.
There's something in the air, something I can't quite see,
Hiding behind this stock of images, this language
Culled from all the poems I've ever loved.
John Koethe's remarkable gift to readers is an elegiac poetry that explores the transitory nature of ordinary human experience. The beautiful poems in this new collection celebrate the creative power of human beings, the only weapon we possess against time's relentless "slow approach to anonymity and death."
Of all Koethe's books, SALLY'S HAIR is probably his most human and various. He is well known for his meditative lyrics and this volume begins with a brilliant series of such poems, among them "Eros and the Everyday." This is followed by "The Unlasting," a long poem devoted to time and experience, and a third section comprised of more public poems, some of them political, such as "The Maquiladoras" and "Poetry and the War." This perceptive, luminescent collection concludes with a group of vivid and conversational poems, recollections, including the gems "Proust" and "HAMLET."
Koethe's first collection since North Point North: New and Selected Poems finds the meditative poet in familiar territory, fashioning considerations of time's passage in a discursive, accessible and disarming style. "I came here for the view," he says, "and what is there to see?...The days have the feeling of fiction..." Middle age, nostalgia for adolescence (as in the title poem), friendliness, loneliness and subdued regret describe "A solitary life, bounded by hope"; Koethe's "earnestness embodied in a style" pays homage to such surprising (in his work) figures as Philip Larkin and Robert Lowell, but returns, as devotees might expect, to the sinuous abstractions the poet has learned from Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery. A professor of philosophy, Koethe moves easily from big ideas to his own shaving mirror, to a film he saw last week or 30 years ago, and then back to "that sense of something now as/ Indeterminate and fugitive, alas, as the years." Koethe also explores the 1960s, when he entered college, contemplating "Guitar heroes and singer-songwriters/ And death," and discovered the ambition which drives him still, whether or not, as he fears, "the theories were all formulated,/ The songs all written and sung."