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The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch

Search for:. Blog at WordPress. Sweet are the uses of adversity Became Sweetheart cabooses of diversity And Sweet art cow papooses at the university. The combined impact of his time in France and his time with the Abstract Expressionists in New York made it possible for him to shake words from their referents, and throw them about like paint; this resulted in poems impenetrable not because they hide deep truths, but because they are flat as a canvas.

Many of the poems remain deliberately artificial and quasi-surreal, but the artificial worlds created are more coherent and the flights of fancy soar over recognisable landscapes. In come popular iconography, metonymy, a range of less-used forms — Koch is a particular fan of the sestina — and relaxed free verse.

The poems of the s and s are the work of a man living well in postwar America, and in a Europe made available by scholarships. Such methods lend themselves to collaboration. Koch found fame in the early s as a pioneer in the teaching of creative writing.

Kenneth Koch's poetry took readers on a thrill ride

The avowedly anti-academic poet made his living as a professor at Columbia. In The Art of Love , the class clown has settled in as teacher. Just as the sex has sado-masochistic elements, so does the reading of the poem. The poet gets to be the seasoned lover and domineering know-it-all, and the reader learns to lie back and like it. The old urge to playfulness and pastiche, and the willingness to try out different ventures, are still strong.


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There are sequences like necklaces in which each poem is a little piece of coloured glass: some are bright, some are dark, some are more fetching than others; the important thing is to link a good number of them together. Well, a lot and not much. Whatever interest and charm its bright blobs of signification have quickly pall when they spread across page after page.

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Keeping to impressions, and keeping away from research or afterthought, the poem is less an engagement with place than notes on the experience of passing through. Ko: Or, a Season on Earth and its successor The Duplications , on the other hand, are attempts at comic epic. Reviewed by John AshberySome poets have difficulty putting pen to paper. Kenneth Koch, on the contrary, could simply not stop producing poetry.

Writing and living were all but synonymous for him. The results are brought together in his almost page Collected Poems, which doesn't even include long poems like the Byronic epic about a Japanese baseball player, "Ko, or a Season on Earth. Koch and I became friends at Harvard in the late s.