Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)

Kenneth Koch and Allen Ginsberg, St Mark’s Church, NYC, 1977. Photo courtesy the Poetry Project
Kenneth Koch‘s birthday gives us an excuse to reprint this wonderful interview with Allen. It appeared in October 1977 in The New York Times.
Allen paid back the compliment, interviewing Kenneth the following year – (on “Writing For The Stage” – on the occasion of a 3-week run of his play, “The Red Robins”, at New York’s St. Clemens Theater). It (that interview) is included in Koch’s collection The Art of Poetry. It’s also, happily, available on line here.

Some years back we featured their spontaneous collaboration at The Poetry Project.

Making It Up was the book that transcribes that, complete with introduction by Ron Padgett and a bold Larry Rivers cover.

Of course, there’s also Allen’s wonderful hommage poem, “Homework” – “If I were doing my Laundry I’d wash my dirty Iran/ I’d throw in my United States and pour on the Ivory soap/ scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in/ the jungle….”

There’s also the Columbia (academic, or rather counter-academic) connection. Interesting to think that Kenneth’s landmark poem, “Fresh Air” was published the very same year as “Howl”.

Kenneth Koch lecturing at Naropa (he was, of course, the consummate teacher), can be accessed here and here, a 1981 reading at Naropa is available here.

Further audio material is available here.

Knopf have published The Collected Poems (2005) and On the Edge: Collected Long Poems (2009), Coffee House Press, the Collected Fiction (2005) and The Collected Plays and Other Dramatic Works (forthcoming, 2012).

Interviews with him can be read here (1989) and here (1993), and here. (1980 with Anne Waldman) (1996 –

In 1996 he was awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, supervised by the Library of Congress (the previous year, he’d won the highly prestigious Bollingen award)).
Here’s him reading “The Study of Happiness” from 1969, and here’s him reading the title poem from One Train, his 1994 collection, and here’s footage from a 2001 Danish documentary (“Something Wonderful May Happen“) featuring the final section from the, indeed wonderful, “Pleasures of Peace”.

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