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Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009

John Koethe’s ‘Ninety-Fifth Street’ Poetry

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Countless authors have ruminated darkly on the passage of time, but John Koethe's newest collection of poems remembers the promise of youth in a captivating lyrical medium that he describes as reflections of an "aging child of sixty-two." In Ninety-Fifth Street, Koethe, a distinguished professor of philosophy at UW-Milwaukee, brings together the contradictions between the esoteric nature of philosophy and the straightforward style with which he writes to create a collection of narratives filled with memories set behind beautiful landscapes, changing seasons and stark human depictions.

A Princeton and Harvard-educated scholar who began writing poetry as an undergrad, Koethe has taught at UWM since 1973. His poetry has been included in several anthologies, including Best American Poetry, and has garnered numerous accolades, including the title of Milwaukee's first poet laureate.

Ninety-Fifth Street, Koethe's eighth book of poems, continues to show his appealing poetic voice and easily accessible style. His most recent writings draw on the fact that Koethe's introspection allows readers to envision themselves in his stories, something you wouldn't always expect from a professor of philosophy. While philosophy and poetry have an obvious symbiosis, Koethe melds the two through vivid descriptions with a surprisingly defined personal slant. The philosophical tones in his work show a man in his middle years reflecting on life in a way that is both meditative and comprehensible.

Ninety-Fifth Street continues to illustrate one man's personal passage through time. Both reminiscent and insightful, these poems infuse Koethe's experiences with a clear tone that mirrors his life as a professor of philosophy. If his public appearances are as conversational as his newest collection of poetry, John Koethe will provide an engaging visit when he speaks at Boswell Book Company on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.