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Recorded for Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2017.
About this Poem 
“This poem, like many of my poems, is basically a free-form musing on the status of the self and the feeling of time passing, subjects I find inexhaustible. Since the logic of poems like this is associative, there are often references and allusion, in this case to the Velvet Underground song ‘After Hours’ and to Stephen Spender’s poem ‘The Truly Great.’”
—John Koethe
 

The Sin of Pride

turns out not to be a sin at all, but in the guise
Of self-esteem a virtue; while poetry, an original
Sin of pride for making self-absorption seem heroic,
Apologizes again and shuts the door. O Small
Room of Myself, where everything and nothing fits,
I wish the night would last forever as the song assures,
Though it never does. I make my way not knowing
Where it leads or how it ends—in shocks of recognition,
In oblivion deferred, too little or too late, consumed
By fears of the forgotten and of the truly great. Morning
Brings a newspaper and an ordinary day, the prospect
Of a popular novel, though it's hard to read. I write to live
And read to pass the time, yet in the end they're equal,
And instead of someone else's name the name I hear is mine—
Which is unsurprising, since our stories all sound alike,
With nothing to reveal or hide. How thin our books
Of revelations, the essential poems of everyone
Mysterious on the outside, but with nothing to conceal—
Like the stories of experience I go on telling myself
And sometimes even think are true, true at least to a feeling
I can't define, though I know what I know: of a mind
Relentlessly faithful to itself and more or less real.

Copyright © 2017 by John Koethe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by John Koethe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

John Koethe

John Koethe

Born in 1945, John Koethe is the author of several collections of poetry, including Falling Water, which won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

by this poet

poem

Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor,
Not going left, not going right.


—Stephen Sondheim



I like to get drunk and I like to write.
I search for ways in and can’t find them,
But that doesn’t mean they’re not there. What isn’t
There is the life

poem
Some have the grandeur of architecture,
The grandeur of the concert hall: the sentimental
Grandeur of an idea lying just beyond recall
In someone's imagination, compelled by an even
Greater music at its most monumental, 
That begins with the explosion of a drum
In chaos and the dark, the twin wellsprings of a
poem
In the end one simply withdraws
From others and time, one's own time,
Becoming an imaginary Everyman
Inhabiting a few rooms, personifying 
The urge to tend one's garden,
A character of no strong attachments
Who made nothing happen, and to whom
Nothing ever actually happened—a fictitious
Man whose life was over