John Koethe Receives the Lenore Marshall Prize

Written by

Tess Gallagher

Posted on

Sep 10 2010

$25,000 for the year’s most outstanding book of poetry

New York, September 10—The Academy of American Poets announced today that John Koethe's Ninety-fifth Street (Harper Perennial) was chosen by poets Marianne Boruch, David Kirby, and John Yau to receive the 2010 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, which awards $25,000 to the most outstanding book of poetry published in the previous year. Koethe will receive the award and read from the book at the fourth annual Poets Forum in New York City, October 28-30.

About Koethe's winning book, judge John Yau remarked:

"John Koethe's candidness is unique among contemporary poets. In remarkably direct and transparent language, he writes about familiar things and ordinary moments that the reader will almost certainly have no trouble recognizing. 'For that's what poetry is—a way to live through time / And sometimes, just for a while, to bring it back.' In Ninety-fifth Street, his eighth book, the poet visits his childhood, being a student at Princeton, his friendships with fellow and elder poets, living in Berlin, as well as contemplates 'randomness and age.' Any sense of nostalgia suffusing through the poems is sharply tempered by Koethe's acute awareness of time's constant pressure, its relentless tug: 'Meanwhile life regresses / Towards the future, death by death.' Borne along by time, and knowing what ultimately awaits him, 'the aging child of sixty-two' doesn't try to seek sanctuary from what he knows to be true, which is that time shapes him, as it does us all. Instead, he ruminates on this understanding of reality with an unparalleled thoroughness. He interrogates what it means to be alive."

John Koethe was born in San Diego, California in 1945. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. His first book of poems, Blue Vents, was published in 1968. Since then, he has published several collections of poetry including, Falling Water (Harper Perennial, 1997), which won the Kingsley Tufts Award, and North Point North: New and Selected Poems (2003), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Koethe's honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well a lifetime achievement award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. From 2000-2002, he served as Milwaukee's first poet laureate. He has taught at Princeton University, the University of Cincinnati, and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

About poetry, John Koethe has said:

"I'm not sure what Auden meant by that famous remark, ['poetry makes nothing happen']. If you think that poetry ought to materially affect the world, then I suppose he's right...But I think that successful poetry can affect reality by adding to it, by creating possibilities of feeling, thought, and perception that weren't there before. That can be true even if the poet is a rather incidental figure to whom nothing important happens."

Marianne Boruch's latest collection of poems is Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan, 2010). Among her numerous books of poems are Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin College Press, 2004), which was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and Moss Burning (Oberlin College Press, 2003). Her seventh collection, The Book of Hours is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. Boruch's honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center. She teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College.

David Kirby is the author of numerous books of poems including The Temple Gate Called Beautiful (Alice James Books, 2008), The House on Boulevard St. (Louisiana State University Press, 2007), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and The Ha-Ha: Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2003). His honors include four Pushcart Prizes, the James Dickey Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Kirby is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University, where he has taught since 1969.

John Yau's most recent publication is a chapbook, Exhibits (Letter Machine Editions, 2010). He is the author of numerous books of poems including, Corpse and Mirror (Holt Rinehart, 1983), which was a National Poetry Series selection by John Ashbery, and Borrowed Love Poems (Penguin, 2002). Yau has received numerous awards including the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets, the American Poetry Review Jerome Shestack Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is currently on the faculty of the Visual Arts Department at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

The Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize was established in 1975 by the New Hope Foundation in memory of Lenore Marshall (1897-1971), a poet, novelist, essayist, and political activist. Lenore Marshall was the author of three novels, three books of poetry, a collection of short stories, and selections from her notebooks. Her work also appeared in The New Yorker, The Saturday Review, Partisan Review, and other literary magazines. In 1956 she helped found the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the citizens’ organization that lobbied successfully for passage of the 1963 partial nuclear test ban treaty.

The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and our annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.