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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

At the Shrink

Janique Vigier, 22 October 2020

... mimeographed magazine 0 to 9, which combined work by poets and artists – Clark Coolidge, Kenneth Koch, Adrian Piper, Robert Smithson, Yvonne Rainer. From Memory by Bernadette Mayer, Siglio, 2020. Courtesy Bernadette Mayer Papers, Special Collections & Archives, University of California, San Diego. Memory, a ‘conceptual piece lacking ...

On Michael Longley

Colin Burrow: Michael Longley, 19 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 ...


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 ...

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 ...

It’s the worst!

Ange Mlinko: Frank O’Hara’s Contradictions, 3 November 2022

Meditations in an Emergency 
by Frank O’Hara.
Grove, 52 pp., £12.99, March, 978 1 61185 656 9
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... Idon't care what Wystan says,’ Frank O’Hara wrote to Kenneth Koch. ‘I’d rather be dead than not have France around me like a rhinestone dog-collar.’ He was responding to Auden’s admonition on reading O’Hara’s and John Ashbery’s entries for the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1955: ‘I think you (and John, too, for that matter) must watch what is always the great danger with any “surrealistic” style, namely of confusing authentic non-logical relations which arouse wonder with accidental ones which arouse mere surprise and in the end fatigue ...

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 ...

Bye-bye, NY

Ange Mlinko: Harry Mathews’s Fever Dream, 18 March 2021

Collected Poems: 1946-2016 
by Harry Mathews.
Sand Paper Press, 288 pp., $28, February 2020, 978 0 9843312 8 4
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... and used it to found a little magazine named after one of Roussel’s works, Locus Solus: Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler were collaborators. It ran for four issues and included the founders’ work alongside that of Barbara Guest, Frank O’Hara, Edwin Denby and others. Locus Solus was like the intersection of New York, Paris and a Surrealist ...

The Real Thing

Jenni Quilter, 21 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 ...

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 ...

I want to be the baby

Kasia Boddy: Barthelme’s High Jinks, 18 August 2022

Collected Stories 
by Donald Barthelme, edited by Charles McGrath.
Library of America, 1004 pp., £40, July 2021, 978 1 59853 684 3
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... painting from Elaine de Kooning, Lightnin’ Hopkins in concert and a festival of poetry featuring Kenneth Koch, W.D. Snodgrass and Robert Bly. Most fun of all, Barthelme organised an exhibition, New American Artefacts: The Ugly Show, which included all sorts of bits and pieces he’d found in junk shops: plastic flowers and fruit, a giant jar of ...

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