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Beyond Belief


John Koethe

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Beyond Belief Download image

ISBN10: 0374604339
ISBN13: 9780374604332


96 Pages



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"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 it 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.”


Praise for Beyond Belief

"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)

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

John Koethe

John Koethe has published eleven 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 recent essay collection Thought and Poetry. He is Distinguished Professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Tom Bamberger

John Koethe

Poetry Foundation Profile