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Beyond Belief: Poems

Beyond Belief: Poems

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Publication Date: September 12th, 2023
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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A rich, meditative new collection of poetry from John Koethe, the "necessary and great poet" (Hyperallergic).

It’s presumptuous, but if you’re reading this you
Probably know my usual obsessions and preoccupations:
The “world”—both the word and what it stands for—and time,
Which is or isn’t real, depending on my mood. I’ve always
Hated poems about philosophy, and I hope I still do,
But since I don’t know what that means anymore, here I am,
Musing on my ends and my beginnings one more time . . .

In Beyond Belief, John Koethe poses eternal and essential questions about the rhythms of time, language and literature, and “the space between attention and belief.” The eleventh book of poetry from America’s philosopher-poet is an intimate, searching collection that gives life to the mundane and lends words to our most interior and abstract musings. What makes a life real? Words on a page, the accumulation of moments and memories, or nothing at all? And what is a life worth? Locked inside, have we lost our future and its promises or are we merely pressed to inhabit our present and ourselves?

The award-winning poet invites us into his consideration of our world, as “An ordinary person sitting on his balcony on a summer afternoon, / Waiting patiently for someone to explain it to and meanwhile / Living quietly in his imagination, imagining the afterlife.”

About the Author

John Koethe has published nearly a dozen books of poetry and has received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and the Frank O’Hara Award for Poetry. He has also published books on Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosophical skepticism, and poetry, as well as the essay collection Thought and Poetry. He is Distinguished Professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Praise for Beyond Belief: Poems

Named a Best Poetry Book of 2022 by The New York Times Book Review

"John Koethe’s work constitutes a plain-spoken philosophy—insofar as poetry can really be plain-spoken—endlessly asking what life is, and what poetry is, which he sees as related problems . . . 'Sometimes I think I’m terrified/That it was all a style,' Koethe writes, 'That’s had its day, and I’ve wasted my life.' But he remains charmingly loyal to his vocation. Poets are people who hear these voices and have to record them; they are both source and witness: 'O you I conjure up, to whom I speak as to myself, listen.' —Elisa Gabbert, The New York Times Book Review

"Koethe's verse is enticingly accessible even as it plumbs the most fundamental conundrums of human life with wit and humility." —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"In Koethe’s relaxed, prose-like style, long sentences meander until his thoughts, taking a philosophical turn, dead end in a reverberant image or a metaphor like the enigmatic smile in 'Daddy,' one of the best poems in this striking collection." —Diane Scharper, Library Journal (Starred Review)

"[Koethe's] poetry has a long-limbed, discursive feel that involves a constant searching that we might associate with the study of philosophy . . . Koethe offer[s] models of what it actually means to reach through and beyond." —Ian Pople, The High Window Press