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Cirque d’hiver

Douglas Oliver, 21 October 1993

... after Kenneth Koch Agence France-Presse took my girls to the winter circus – that’s Paris’s Cirque d’hiver – 1970 or 71, having already given them a clockwork train set in breakable plastic as part of the exploitation of its collaborateurs. I could mention the usual football-playing poodles nodding balloons into goals but I suppose we journalists were a bit like that: lines of typewriters rattling and jumping on the long steel desks in between the stuttering teleprinter banks ...

In the Circus

William Wootten: Low-Pressure Poetry, 3 August 2006

The Collected Poems 
by Kenneth Koch.
Knopf, 761 pp., £40, November 2005, 1 4000 4499 5
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... Kenneth Koch (pronounced ‘coke’) could do a mean impersonation of William Carlos Williams. ‘This is Just to Say’, Williams’s note asking forgiveness for eating the plums in the icebox which ‘you were probably/saving/for breakfast’ on the grounds that they were ‘so sweet/and so cold’, gets the Koch treatment in ‘Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams’: I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer ...

Send no postcards, take no pictures

John Redmond, 21 May 1998

One Train 
by Kenneth Koch.
Carcanet, 74 pp., £7.95, March 1997, 9781857542691
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A World where News Travelled slowly 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 53 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 571 19160 6
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A Painted Field 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 98 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 330 35059 5
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... Kenneth Koch ends his fine and amusing collection, One Train, with a sequence called ‘On Aesthetics’, which, amongst many other things, takes in the aesthetics of Paul Valéry, of jazz, of moss, of air and of being the youngest of four sisters. In tone, the sequence is something like a cross between Auden’s ‘Academic Graffiti’ and the Private Eye scribbling of E ...

Two Poems

Donald Hall, 19 August 1993

... shelling pistachio nuts;         Robert E. Bly wore a three- piece suit and a striped tie; Kenneth Koch was always sarcastic. Once as we pasted an issue         together we discovered a blank page and teased Ashbery         to give us a poem. John disappeared to Dunster House. When         he dawdled back with his poem ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler, 17 November 2005

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... flat on East 52nd St in 1950, the year before Schuyler’s breakdown, Schuyler met John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara, who had been friends at Harvard. The ‘Harvard wits’, he called them. Schuyler had attended Bethany College, a small college in West Virginia affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, where he had devoted himself to bridge ...

On Michael Longley

Colin Burrow: Michael Longley, 18 October 2017

... am writing too much about Carrigskeewaun,’ he complained in A Hundred Doors, and his elegy for Kenneth Koch records his American guest coming to Carrigskeewaun and saying: ‘Where are all those otters, Longley, and all those hares?/I see only sparrows here and house sparrows at that!’ But it is from Carrigskeewaun that he tends to begin. His ...

Yesterday

Frank Kermode, 27 July 1989

The Pleasures of Peace: Art and Imagination in Post-War Britain 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 367 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 13722 9
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... Prynne, ‘the most comprehensively gifted of living British poets’, and, on loan from New York, Kenneth Koch, who not only supplied Appleyard’s title but serves also to remind us that gaiety and virtuosity may still occur in the midst of the aforesaid impoverishment, and require, in an enterprise of this kind, to be related to everything else that is ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel, 26 April 2012

Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... about race’. Roussel’s long poem Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique has done better in English. Kenneth Koch translated the third canto into rhyming alexandrines in 1964, and Ian Monk the whole poem into pentameter couplets in 2004. But Mark Ford’s facing-pages edition is easily the most comprehensive and reader-friendly to date. The author of the ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... to each other. The collaborative work of poets such as O’Hara and Schuyler and Ashbery and Kenneth Koch also had an inspirational effect on Brainard. He adored working with others, particularly on spoof comic strips featuring characters like the tough cowboy Red Ryder (the source of a hilarious mini-narrative with words by O’Hara) or Ernie ...

Hi, Louise!

Stephanie Burt: Frank O’Hara, 20 July 2000

In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art 
by Russell Ferguson.
California, 160 pp., £24.50, October 1999, 0 520 22243 1
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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets 
by David Lehman.
Anchor, 448 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 0 385 49533 1
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Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 266 pp., £13.50, March 1998, 0 226 66059 1
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... to New York, where he rejoined his Harvard friends and their friends – among them the poets Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler and Barbara Guest – becoming part of a social circle that was soon dominated by painters. In 1951 and again from 1955 until his death, O’Hara worked at the Museum of Modern Art, where he became a curator of exhibitions and a ...

Formication

Daniel Soar: Harry Mathews, 21 July 2005

My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 203 pp., £8.99, July 2005, 1 56478 392 8
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... the nominal headquarters of Locus Solus, the little magazine he had once edited with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler. His thinking was that the prime currency of intelligence work is information about places, and travel agents have access to a great deal. He might even make some money. The AARO invites him to give a talk to an eclectic group ...

The Only Alphabet

August Kleinzahler: Ashbery’s Early Life, 20 September 2017

The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life 
by Karin Roffman.
Farrar, Straus, 316 pp., £25.50, June 2017, 978 0 374 29384 0
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... art and literary society with its own yellow building at 46 Dunster Street’. It was there he met Kenneth Koch, and the two got on famously, as they would for the next fifty years. Ashbery was asked to read at the Widener Library Poetry Room, where he was already a near permanent presence. He listened to lots of music on the Victrola he bought for his ...

The Real Thing

Jenni Quilter, 20 April 2016

Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter 
by Cathy Curtis.
Oxford, 432 pp., £20.99, April 2015, 978 0 19 939450 0
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... along with Hartigan, included Frankenthaler, Freilicher, Mitchell, Leslie, Rivers, O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery and James Schuyler – liked their conversation dry and shaded. But Hartigan could also be oppressively earnest. Immediately after describing the day she spent with Freilicher, Hartigan continued: ‘Her desire to “draw” well ...

Marvellous Boys

Mark Ford, 9 September 1993

The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... At the other end of the spectrum Malley has been championed by the New York poets John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch, who printed a selection of his work in 1961 as part of a special ‘collaboration’ number of Locus Solus, a magazine they edited with Harry Mathews and James Schuyler. (It was here that I first came across Malley’s poems, nestled up against ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... little short tale in verse about the buzz saw, a sonnet of Dante admirably translated by Kenneth Koch, Adrian Mitchell’s ‘Giving Potatoes’, Theodore Roethke’s ‘The Meadow Mouse’ or a 12-line poem by James Stephens (author of The Crock of Gold) entitled ‘A Glass of Beer’, whose concluding curse on a disobliging barmaid purports to ...

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