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A Possible World

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About This Book
"For the last thirty years or more, Kenneth Koch has been writing the most exuberant poems in America. In an arena where such good spirits are rare, he has become a national treasure. In his book of personal addresses to what has mattered most in his seventy-plus years on the planet, there is a dimension of pathos and joy rare in the poetry of any era." —National Book Award (2000) finalist citation for New Addresses

The three long poems -- “Bel Canto,” “Possible World,” and “A Memoir” -- in this brilliant successor to New Addresses are ambitious attempts at rendering the complete story of a life. Taken together they present a dazzling picture of the pleasures and confusions of existence, as well as the pleasures and difficulties of expressing them.

Other poems bring Koch’s questioning, lyrical attention to more particular aspects of experience, real and imagined—a shipboard meeting, the Moor not taken, or the unknowable realm of mountaintops. As in all of Koch’s work, one hears the music of unconquerable exuberance in stormy conflict with whatever resists it—death, the injustice of power, the vagaries of life in Thailand, China, or Rome.

Thomas Disch has written in the Boston Book Review that “Koch is the most capable technician on the American scene, the brightest wit, and the emeritus most likely to persist into the next millennium . . . His work is full of ribaldry and wit, musicianship, pitch-perfect mimicry of the Great Tradition, and the celebration of pleasure for its own sunlit sake.”

The ebullience and stylistic variety that one has come to expect of this protean poet is everywhere present in this scintillating collection.


From the Hardcover edition.
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"For the last thirty years or more, Kenneth Koch has been writing the most exuberant poems in America. In an arena where such good spirits are rare, he has become a national treasure. In his book of personal addresses to what has mattered most in his seventy-plus years on the planet, there is a dimension of pathos and joy rare in the poetry of any era." —National Book Award (2000) finalist citation for New Addresses

The three long poems -- “Bel Canto,” “Possible World,” and “A Memoir” -- in this brilliant successor to New Addresses are ambitious attempts at rendering the complete story of a life. Taken together they present a dazzling picture of the pleasures and confusions of existence, as well as the pleasures and difficulties of expressing them.

Other poems bring Koch’s questioning, lyrical attention to more particular aspects of experience, real and imagined—a shipboard meeting, the Moor not taken, or the unknowable realm of mountaintops. As in all of Koch’s work, one hears the music of unconquerable exuberance in stormy conflict with whatever resists it—death, the injustice of power, the vagaries of life in Thailand, China, or Rome.

Thomas Disch has written in the Boston Book Review that “Koch is the most capable technician on the American scene, the brightest wit, and the emeritus most likely to persist into the next millennium . . . His work is full of ribaldry and wit, musicianship, pitch-perfect mimicry of the Great Tradition, and the celebration of pleasure for its own sunlit sake.”

The ebullience and stylistic variety that one has come to expect of this protean poet is everywhere present in this scintillating collection.


From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
Paperback (112 pages)
Published: March 9, 2004
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Knopf
ISBN: 9780375710001
Other books byKenneth Koch
  • The Banquet

    The Banquet
    The Complete Plays, Films, and Librettos
    "Theater such as Kenneth Koch cannot be simply paraphrased, and presents to the audience the classic Mennipean challenge: to ponder, to mull it over, to think."—Mac Wellman The Banquet brings together 144 plays, ten screenplays, and five operas spanning more than five decades of experimental work from a writer John Ashbery has called "simply the best we have." Witty, provocative, and playful, Kenneth Koch's work draws on poetry, musicals, improvisational comedy, satire, and other forms for their inspiration and touches on subjects ranging from the silly to the sublime. Kenneth Koch (1925–2002), known for his association with the New York School of poetry, wrote many collections of poetry, fiction, plays, and nonfiction. His books include Seasons on Earth, On the Edge, Thank You and Other Poems, The Art of Love, One Thousand Avant-Garde Plays, Hotel Lambosa, and The Collected Fiction, and several books on teaching children how to write poetry. Koch was awarded numerous honors, including the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress in 1996, as well as awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and Ingram-Merrill foundations. In 1996 he was inducted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Kenneth Koch lived in New York City, where he was professor of English at Columbia University.

    On the Edge

    On the Edge
    Collected Long Poems
    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. From the Trade Paperback edition.

    New Addresses

    New Addresses
    Kenneth Koch, who has already considerably "stretched our ideas of what it is possible to do in poetry" (David Lehman), here takes on the classic poetic device of apostrophe, or direct address. His use of it gives him yet another chance to say things never said before in prose or in verse and, as well, to bring new life to a form in which Donne talked to Death, Shelley to the West Wind, Whitman to the Earth, Pound to his Songs, O'Hara to the Sun at Fire Island.   Koch, in this new book, talks to things important in his life -- to Breath, to World War Two, to Orgasms, to the French Language, to Jewishness, to Psychoanalysis, to Sleep, to his Heart, to Friendship, to High Spirits, to his Twenties, to the Unknown. He makes of all these "new addresses" an exhilarating autobiography of a most surprising and unforeseeable kind. From the Hardcover edition.

    Sun Out

    Sun Out
    Selected Poems 1952-1954
    Mr. Koch’s poems have a natural voice, they are quick, alert, instinctive . . . He has vivacity and go, originality of perception and intoxication with life. Most important of all, he is not dull.” --Frank O’Hara, Poetry, 1955 Gathered together for the first time, the exciting, startling early work of one of our finest poets. Writing as a young man in the 1950s, Koch, a member of the now famed New York School along with John Ashbery, Larry Rivers, Frank O’Hara, and others, experimented with the delicate balance between sound and sense to offer a series of poems resembling music or abstract painting. For example, he opens the title poem with: “Bananas, piers, limericks / I am postures / Over there, I, are / The lakes of delectation / Sea, sea you!” Also included are a selection of short plays in verse and Koch’s innovative masterpiece, “When the Sun Tries to Go On,” a poem that “produces a radical reworking of the life-poem myth predominant in American poetics since ‘Song of Myself’” (William Watkins, In the Process of Poetry). About “When the Sun Tries to Go On,” David Lehman wrote, “Koch takes a great deal of delight in the sounds of words and his consciousness of them; he splashes them like paint on a page with enthusiastic puns, internal rhymes, titles of books, names of friends, and seems surprised as we are at the often witty outcome” (Poetry, 1968). When the poems in Sun Out were originally published, they set a standard for the freshness and surprise of language used in extraordinary ways. For almost five decades they have delighted readers lucky enough to find them. It is our pleasure to make them once again available in this new and provocative collection. From the Hardcover edition.

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