Ninety-Fifth Street

Edward Hirsch writes, "Koethe gives us the sensation of thinking itself, of a certain fleeting, daily, solitary consciousness rescued from oblivion and held aloft." In Ninety-Fifth Street, his eighth book of poems, Koethe enacts how being in a place shapes thought in powerful and interesting ways and how returning to a place illuminates shifts in the mind. The gap between the present and the past, for Koethe, is a fertile ground for important observations of how the mind changes. Every narrative in the book is layered with awareness of how perspective changes the stories we tell. The poems spring from the landscapes of childhood, travels in the United States and Europe, a youth spent in the company of poets, and feeling, as in "Fear of the Future." The voice in these poems is honest, witty, and sure enough to doubt. In the title poem, Koethe writes about his life as a whole and as a writer: "I started writing poems about whatever moved me: what it's like / To be alive within a world that holds no place for you, yet seems so beautiful."

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.