Winner of the 2013 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize
2013 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize judge and author of Pretender
David Koehn’s first book, Twine, never falters—one strong poem after another. This is the work of a mature poet. His use of detail is not only precise and evocative; it’s transformative.
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1997-2000)
David Koehn’s imagination, rambunctious and abundant, keeps its footing: a sense of balance like his description of fishing: “Feeling the weight . . . of the measurement of air.” That sense of weight and air, rhythm and fact, the ethereal and the brutal, animates images like boxers of the bare-fist era: “Hippo-bellied / And bitter, bulbous in their bestiary masks.” An original and distinctively musical poet.
winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry
“A shadow of light passes through the room like a shark,” writes David Koehn in this marvelous debut. In taut, fine-spun lines, these poems move through space with insight and verve.
A length of twine is a binding of difference—of distinct filaments brought together to achieve in unison what none would have the strength to do alone; so, too, is this collection a cunning braiding together of diverse formal allegiances and wide variants of subject matter, which achieve together a manifold expression of what it means to both suffer and relish our complex human condition. Expect no reconciliation of diversities here—Koehn’s poems offer a reality that is wide awake to its dream, a quotidian that is slyly alert to its “rules for dealing with infinity reappearing.” Read this collection’s brilliantly keyed dissonances, its lyric dexterities, and find so much of what inexplicably binds us, for good and ill, the differences that we share, as if entwined, “as if a part of each of us has always belonged to others.”
David Koehn has been published in a wide range of journals including The Bitter Oleander, Chain, Diner, Artful Dodge, Painted Bride, Poems and Plays, Permafrost, Aethlon, Calapooya, Birmingham Poetry Review, Wisconsin Review, West Wind Review, Southern Indiana Review, Confluence, Oxford Magazine, Whiskey Island, Snake Nation, Cutbank, Apalachee Quarterly, New Millennium Writings, Euphony, Waterways, Alaska Quarterly, The New England Review, The New York Quarterly, and VOLT. Before winning the 2013 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, David Koehn’s poetry and translations were previously collected in two chapbooks, Tunic, (speCt! books 2013) a small collection of some of his translations of Catullus, and Coil (University of Alaska, 1998), winner of the Midnight Sun Chapbook Contest. He has an MFA from the University of Florida, a BA in Professional and Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon, an M.Ed. (equiv.) from the University of Alaska, and was a Breadloaf Rural Teacher Fellow at Middlebury College’s Breadloaf School of English. He lives with his family in Pleasanton, California.