Biography of Kenneth Koch
an American poet, playwright, and professor, active from the 1950s until his death at age 77. He was a prominent poet of the New York School of poetry, a loose group of poets including Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery that eschewed contemporary introspective poetry in favor of an exuberant, cosmopolitan style that drew major inspiration from travel, painting, and music.
Kenneth Koch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 27, 1925. He studied at Harvard University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, and attended Columbia University for his Ph.D.
Many critics found Koch's early work obscure, such as Poems (1953), and the epic Ko, or A Season on Earth (1959), yet remarked upon his subsequent writing for its clarity, lyricism, and humor, such as in The Art of Love (1975), which was praised as a graceful, humorous book. His other collections of poetry include New Addresses (Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award and a finalist for the National Book Award; Straits (1998); One Train and On the Great Atlantic Rainway, Selected Poems 1950-1988 (both published in 1994), which together earned him the Bollingen Prize in 1995; Seasons of the Earth (1987); On the Edge (1986); Days and Nights (1982); The Burning Mystery of Anna in 1951 (1979); The Duplications (1977); The Pleasures of Peace (1969); When the Sun Tries to Go On (1969); Thank You (1962); and Seasons on Earth (1960).
Koch's short plays, many of them produced off- and off-off-Broadway, are collected in The Gold Standard: A Book of Plays. He has also published Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry (Scribners, 1998); The Red Robins (1975), a novel; Hotel Lambosa and Other Stories(1993). Koch wrote the libretto for composer Marcello Panni's The Banquet, which premiered in Bremen in June 1998, and his collaborations with painters have been the subject of exhibitions at the Ipswich Museum in England and the De Nagy Gallery in New York. His numerous honors include the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress in 1996, as well as awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and Ingram-Merrill foundations. In 1996 he was inducted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Kenneth Koch lived in New York City, where he was professor of English at Columbia University. Koch died on July 6, 2002 from leukemia.
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Kenneth Koch Poems
The Boiling Water
A serious moment for the water is when it boils And though one usually regards it merely as a convenience
One Train May Hide Another
In a poem, one line may hide another line, As at a crossing, one train may hide another train. That is, if you are waiting to cross The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Variations On A Theme By William Carlos ...
1 I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer. I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do and its wooden beams were so inviting.
Nothing's moving I don't see anybody And I know that it's not a trick There really is nothing moving there And there aren't any people. It is the very utmost top
There is no way not to be excited When what you have been disillusioned by raises its head From its arms and seems to want to talk to you again. You forget home and family
Variations At Home And Abroad
It takes a lot of a person's life To be French, or English, or American Or Italian. And to be at any age. To live at any certain time. The Polish-born resident of Manhattan is not merely a representative of
To Various Persons Talked To All At Once
You have helped hold me together. I'd like you to be still. Stop talking or doing anything else for a minute. No. Please. For three minutes, maybe five minutes.
Talking To Patrizia
Patrizia doesn't want to Talk about love she Says she just Wants to make
I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut That will solve a murder case unsolved for years Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window Through which he saw her head, connecting with
A Momentary Longing To Hear Sad Advice F...
Who was my teacher at Harvard. Did not wear overcoat Saying to me as we walked across the Yard
They stir I cool her in winter A second so gilded that the bit
The Brassiere Factory
Is the governor falling From a great height? Arm in arm we fled the brassiere factory, The motion-boat stayed on the shore!
Poem For My Twentieth Birthday
Passing the American graveyard, for my birthday the crosses stuttering, white on tropical green,
The Magic Of Numbers
The Magic of Numbers—1 How strange it was to hear the furniture being moved around in the apartment upstairs!
There is no way not to be excited
When what you have been disillusioned by raises its head
From its arms and seems to want to talk to you again.
You forget home and family
And set off on foot or in your automobile
And go to where you believe this form of reality
May dwell. Not finding it there, you refuse
Any further contact
Until you are back again trying to forget