EMAIL PAGE FOUR
COLUMN SEVENTY-FIVE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
JOHN ENTWISTLE, 1944-2002
"Paul McDonald" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: John Entwistle Has Died!
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 21:46:49 -0700
Reign O'er Me; Rest in Peace
KENNETH KOCH, 1925-2002
Date: Mon, 08 Jul 2002 20:32:52 퍝
From: Marcus Williamson <email@example.com>
Koch, a poet of the New York School whose work combined the sardonic wit of a
borscht-belt comic, the erotic whimsy of a Surrealist painter and the gritty
wisdom of a scared young soldier, died July 6, 2002, after a long battle with
leukemia at his home in Manhattan, New York, at the age of 77.
Koch's literary career spanned more than 50 years and resulted in the
publication of at least 30 volumes of poetry and plays whose linguistic
exuberance and experimental zest were bested only by their omnivorous subject
matter. He wrote elegies, parodies, Dadaist dramas and fragmented shards of
loosely structured verse on a palette of topics that ranged from his father's
furniture business in southern Ohio to Japanese baseball stars to the pleasures
of eating lunch.
Koch (pronounced coke) was considered a founding member of the New York School,
an avant-garde poetic movement that was forged in the Manhattan of the 1950's
when the beer at the Cedar Tavern flowed as smoothly as the passionate talk
about Abstract Expressionist art. He and his contemporaries the poets, John
Ashbery and Frank O'Hara, and the painters, Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers
took up the brash, anti-establishment mantle of their beatnik
predecessors, but with a more classically European touch and with less machismo
and facial hair.
in life, Mr. Koch became well known as a professor of poetry, mainly at Columbia
University, where he lectured on literature and inspired budding writers for
nearly 40 years. He was a spontaneous, high-octane teacher who was not above
leaping on to desks to prove a point and who, for many years, taught writing to
grade-school children, claiming that poetry was as thrilling as stickball.
Jay Koch was born February 27, 1925 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Stuart Koch,
who owned a furniture store, and Lillian Koch, who wrote amateur literary
reviews. After graduating high school, he served in the Philippines during World
War II, a harrowing experience that he did not translate into verse until the
very end of his life.
the war ended, Mr. Koch enrolled at Harvard. He studied writing with the poet
Delmore Schwartz and embarked on a lifelong friendship with Mr. Ashbery. By his
own account, he was hungry for the poet's life but nave about the art of making
poems. "I was so dumb I thought Yeats was pronounced Yeets," he said
in an interview in 1977.
think we may have been more conscious than many poets of the surface of the
poem, and what was going on while we were writing and how we were using
words," he said of the New York School in the same interview. "I don't
think we saw any reason to resist humor in our poems."
Mr. Koch's poetry is at once lyrical and humorous, aching with emotion and
achingly funny. He managed to write verse that is breathy and expansive in tone,
yet still rooted in the American predilections for pop culture references and
is an excerpt from Mr. Koch's poem, "Thank You":
only thing I could publicize well would be my tooth,
Which I could say came with my mouth and in a most engaging manner
With my whole self, my body and including my mind,
Spirits, emotions, spiritual essences, emotional substances, poetry,
dreams, and lords
Of my life, everything, all embraceleted with my tooth
In a way that makes one wish to open the windows and scream "Hi!"
And "Oh, come and take me away before I die in a minute!"
great ability as a poet was to combine modernism and lyricism and to write poems
that gave you a feeling as joyous as Whitman," said Ron Padgett, a former
student of Mr. Koch's and a poet himself.
of Mr. Koch's long poem, "The Duplications," one reviewer said it read
like a collaboration between Lord Byron, Walt Disney, Frank Buck and Andre
was, in fact, a crucial part of Mr. Koch's art. He and Mr. Rivers, for instance,
worked together on a series of painting-poems called "New York,
1950-1960" and "Post Cards." He also wrote the librettos to
operas set to music by, among others, the composer Ned Rorem.
Koch once told an interviewer that, as a child, he kept a little orange book
named the "Scribble-in Book," which he filled with his sketches and
musings. In high school, he set out to write what he called "obscene and
angry" poems, which he showed to his junior-year English teacher, Katherine
Lappa. Although he thought the verses would horrify Ms. Lappa, she told Mr. Koch
at least, as he recalled it "That's exactly the way you should be feeling
when you're 17 years old."
fall, two of his books will be issued posthumously one contains many of his
previously unpublished poems from the early 1950's, and the other is a gathering
of new works. His most recent book was "New Addresses," a collection
of apostrophes to abstract ideas like World War II and Judaism.
was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and won several prizes
over the course of his career, including the Bollingen Prize in 1995 and the
Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry in 1996. He was awarded three
Fulbright scholarships and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.
Alan Feuer, NYT, 7 July 2002
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