One doesn't go to Koch to experience the opening of the poet's mind to the world (Ashbery's stated desire), but for urbane, often vaudevillian, entertainments. This volume-a companion to 2005's Collected Poems (also Knopf), which gathers all of Koch's shorter poetry-shows Koch stretching out in his six extended works. The early Dada epic "When the Sun Tries to Go On" is a 60-plus page list of syntactical detritus, punctuated by bizarre apostrophes: "O tuxedo/ May conceited lobster!" "Ko, or a Season on Earth" is Koch's masterpiece, a mock epic in Byronic stanzas about a Japanese baseball player who hits it big, punctuated this time by impossible synchronicities: "Meanwhile the entire continent of Asia/ Was moving sideways unpredictably/.../ Hawaii, meanwhile, feeling simply great/ Was speeding toward acceptance as a state." "Impressions of Africa" shows Koch opening up a more personal space: the poem is a journal of his long journey to Africa. At last, there is a psychological element (of sorts), as Koch finds himself silenced: "I look at nothing for a while." This book may change some opinions on Koch; readers may ask whether his prodigious formal inventiveness thrives given more room, or if the poems remain surface-oriented, like a body of wate that never moves but looks lively wherever you are watching. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
On the Edge: Collected Long Poemsby Kenneth Koch
In paperback for the first time: Kenneth Koch’s six masterly, groundbreaking longer poems, which contain some of the poet’s most original work, full of exclamation and exaggeration but graced as well with dry wit and sophistication. Together they serve as the companion volume to the highly praised Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
- NOOK Book
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- 2 MB
Read an Excerpt
On the Edge is a collection of six long narrative poems by Kenneth Koch. Here are excerpts from three of them.Ko, Or a Season on EarthMeanwhile at the University of JapanKo had already begun his studies, whichWhile making him an educated manWould also give him as he learned to pitchAnd catch—for Ko was more than a mere fan,But wished as a playing member to do a hitchWith some great team—something to think aboutMore interesting than merely Safe and Out.Inyaga, his professor, when he firstAppeared to Ko, seemed fashioned like an ape,Protruding jaw and tiny eyes that burstFrom high cheekbones of chimpanzee shape,But later it was his teaching that Ko cursed,Of which the body merely was the drape:Inyaga taught him baseball was a sin.Ko cried out! Inyaga; "Stop that dinAt once, or else you'll suffer!" Ko subsides,But his resentment every day gets greater.Meanwhile the Dodgers all had taken bridesAs was arranged for them by Mr. Slater,Their crafty manager, who thus providesA human interest for the fans, who, later,When they find out his trick, will make him pay;But for the moment it is Slater's day.Impressions of AfricaIn the great, bracing air of KenyaThe lion runs. Seeing a lionAnd two lionesses together,The Italian woman said,"È il leone,La sua moglie, e la sua madre"—Id est, the wife's mother,A sort of chaperoneTo the lion and to his wife.The lion's musclesAre amazing. The airIs filled with lions' grace.Viewed without anyHuman component around,The lion is sensationalSimply of and in himself.Seasons on EarthIn spite of the real suffering around me,And poverty, and spite, I had the senseThat there was something else. Each midday found meEcstatically in the present tense,Writing. And you would have eto come and pound meQuite hard to drag me from my innocence.That sense that now seems almost unbelievable—I love it, loved it—is it irretrievable?
Meet the Author
Kenneth Koch was the author of nineteen collections of poetry, short plays, and books about poetry and how to teach it. The recipient of numerous awards, Koch lived in New York City and taught at Columbia University. He died in 2002.
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