Kenneth Patchen

Kenneth Patchen Poems

Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:

As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood lies

Speak softly; sun going down
Out of sight. Come near me now.

Dear dying fall of wings as birds

We go out together into the staring town
And buy cheese and bread and little jugs with
flowered labels

I write the lips of the moon upon her shoulders. In a
temple of silvery farawayness I guard her to rest.

For her bed I write a stillness over all the swans of the

Wherever the dead are there they are and
Nothing more. But you and I can expect
To see angels in the meadowgrass that look
Like cows -

when we were here together in a place we did not know, nor one
A bit of grass held between the teeth for a moment, bright hair on the

So it is the duty of the artist to discourage all traces of shame
To extend all boundaries
To fog them in right over the plate
To kill only what is ridiculous

That should be obvious
Of course it won't
Any fool knows that.
Even in the winter.

The Orange bears with soft friendly eyes
Who played with me when I was ten,
Christ, before I'd left home they'd had
Their paws smashed in the rolls, their backs

In the footsteps of the walking air
Sky's prophetic chickens weave their cloth of awe
And hillsides lift green wings in somber journeying.

Tiny green birds skate over the surface of the room.
A naked girl prepares a basin with steaming water,
And in the corner away from the hearth, the red wheels
Of an up-ended chariot slowly turn.

A beast stands at my eye.

I cook my senses in a dark fire.
The old wombs rot and the new mother

The Dove walks with sticky feet
Upon the green crowns of the almond tree,
Its feathers smeared over with warmth
Like honey

I believe that a young woman
Is standing in a circle of lions
In the other side of the sky.

And all that is this day. . .
The boy with cap slung over what had been a face. ..

Somehow the cop will sleep tonight, will make love to his

To leave the earth was my wish, and no will stayed my rising.
Early, before sun had filled the roads with carts
Conveying folk to weddings and to murders;
Before men left their selves of sleep, to wander

The old guy put down his beer.
Son, he said,
(and a girl came over to the table where we were:
asked us by Jack Christ to buy her a drink.)

Be music, night,
That her sleep may go
Where angels have their pale tall choirs

The snow is deep on the ground.
Always the light falls
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

Kenneth Patchen Biography

an American poet and novelist. Though he denied any direct connection, Patchen's work and ideas regarding the role of artists paralleled those of the Dadaists, the Beats, and Surrealists. Patchen's ambitious body of work also foreshadowed literary art-forms ranging from reading poetry to jazz accompaniment to his late experiments with visual poetry (which he called his "picture poems"). In 1911, Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio. His lifelong romance with writing commenced at age twelve, when he took up keeping a diary and reading the works of famous writers. His first published work was in his high school newspaper. After working for two years with his father, Patchen when on to college in Alexander Meiklejohn's Experimental College for one year, and then to the University of Wisconsin. He grew bored of his studies, and began to wander around the US. He continued his writing, and in 1934, he married Miriam Oikemus. Patchen dislocated a disk in his spine, an incessantly painful injury, which he lived with for a span of nearly thirty years, before seeking treatment. He died in 1972. Over the course of his career, which included about forty books, Patchen tried his hand at several types of poetry: concrete poetry, drama, prose, jazz, verse, and the anti-novel. He even published self-illustrated writings, in his own words, were "painted books." Henry Miller called Patchen "The Man of Anger and Light". In his lifetime, he produced many books and poems. His poetry on atrocities of war is especially remembered.)

The Best Poem Of Kenneth Patchen

Let Us Have Madness

Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:
See it trail across Time's dim land
Into the closed house of eternity
With the noise that dying has,
With the face that dead things wear--
nor ever say
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love,
Transforming day's evil darkness;
but We found extended hell and fog Upon the earth,
and within the head
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.

Kenneth Patchen Comments

Larry Smith 24 June 2009

Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) is America's Rebel Poet, as my biography on him declares. He was a maverick who had a great respect for form and for humanity, which he shares so generously in his work. He and wife Miriam are one of the great love stories in American literature...lovers and rebels seeking a new order for humankind, they sought to witness the tragedy of America and yet keep a vision of wholeness and wonder. Any young poet who misses Patchen, misses a model he will have to discover on his/her own.

9 6 Reply
Ola Lars Andresen 24 September 2005

I'm amazed to find myself the first to offer a comment about Kenneth Patchen. I've read him over and again since 1967, so it's time then. To make it short. Without him, there wouldn't have been a beat generation or any beat poetry or fiction - the way it all came along. Patchen inspired them all. I first came across his name in a small collection of literary essays by Henry Miller, but I first got a chance to read him when offered some books by a fugative representative of the Black Panters a year before the European student revolts in 1968. I'm till this day intrigued by a novel called The Journal of Albion Moonlight, first published in 1950, I belive. Unfortunately I think its message is more valid now than ever. The way I read it, it's about a fascist US. And his poems? Just start reading, laughing and crying. If somebody wonders about my age and gender, I'm close to 60 and male.

9 4 Reply
Christine Schuster 14 January 2013

Hello everybody, I came across Kenneth Patchen only recently, through a poem of his read by Johnny Dowd on an album by Jackie Leven: The Skaters (the album title is 'Oh what a Blow that Phantom Dealt me') . I was intrigued and deeply moved by the poem itself and by the way it was performed and set to music. Unfortunately I don't understand all of it (I'm German) , so I'd be very happy if someone could post it here. It's in the book 'Still Another Pelican in the Breadbasket', which doesn't seem to be available here. Thanks a lot. Christine

8 4 Reply
Karin Holloway 15 December 2013

Aarrrgghhh! I had hoped to find Patchen's poem which had sledding in it- -no, not the light it's fun in the snow kind of poem but about human darkness. Tragedy, I think. Heck, I was only 13 or so when I found my then dead uncle's book of Patchen poems. And, Chad, I'm soooo sorry but I gave it away last year, nearly 50 years later. Lovely little book it was, too. I was having a life clear-out and wasn't thinking straight. I wasn't aware of Patchen's importance to my life and times- -the resistance to the Vietnam War and to stupid cultural values and mores. I thank him from this side of the big divide and wish him well, wherever he's translating reality now. Back to reading his poems. Oh, hello everyone!

7 3 Reply
Chad Palomino 11 October 2012

Hello Ola, I was very touched by your comment. I have the same feeling about Kenneth Patchen, even if I dont know all his work. I'm from Belgium and had only the opportunity to read what I can still find on the web. Maybe you could help me. I'm looking for all the poems of kenneth Patchen. I love his writing. As you. Deeply. I hate so many poems... and I seem to like nearly everything Patchen's done. I had two wonderful poems of him that I lost. One is about a lynching in the South of USA. I think it's called 'Good day for a Lynching'. The other is about loosers, loneliness and whores I've lost the nameof it.. But anyway... anything from/on from Kenneth Patchen interests me, please let me know. I'm ready to buy old book of him. As well as Tenesse Williams old stuff. If you can help. Just mail me at: or reach me through here. MANY thanks For all

5 4 Reply
Michael Sjobeck 19 March 2019

They point their noses At the Negro jerking in the tight noose; His feet spread crow-like above these Honorable men who laugh as he chokes. I don’t know this black man. I don’t know these white men. But I know that one of my hands Is black, and one white. I know that One part of me is being strangled, While another part horribly laughs. Until it changes, I shall be forever killing; and be killed.

4 0 Reply
Michael Sjobeck 19 March 2019

Nice Day for a Lynching The bloodhounds look like sad old judges In a strange court.

3 0 Reply
Frank madden 31 August 2018

Where is the line The truth is what they don't say from?

0 0 Reply
Kalaiarasi Tiruvarur 16 April 2018

What a wonderful observation about the deer we get love and emotion on nature

1 0 Reply
Susan Kutner 23 August 2017

Please help - years ago I read Patchen and there was one prose poem with no puncuation about The terrible white tiger that floats in the air and And oh my love I have nowhere at all to take thee that was heartbreaking and beautiful. Does anyone know the title of the book it was in?

2 0 Reply

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