Monday, January 26, 2009


An old picture of Koch:

Kenneth Koch

A page from Koch's book Art of the Possible

"It seems everything is so full of possibilities one can hardly take it all in."

Kenneth Koch is one of my favorite poets. It's hard to write about the life and writings of a poet without creating a book report kind of sound, but it must be done!

So, let us get some basic information out of the way. Koch was born in 1925 and died in 2002. He served in WWII, graduated from both Harvard and Columbia, and taught at Columbia for over 40 years (This is all from Wikipedia). Koch was a member of the New York school of poetry along with Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler and many more. The New York School included artists and musicians, so, not surprisingly, they were inspired by one another. Larry Rivers and Jackson Pollock are two examples of said painters, and pieces of their work are included in this post. "We poets and painters hung around a lot together, showed each other our works, and were made by this camaraderie very (or more than otherwise) ambitious, envious, emulous, and, I think, lucky," Koch stated.

"No. 5, 1948" by Jackson Pollock

As I understand it, and the introductory quote displays, Koch was an excitable kind of guy, but in the best way possible. Pretty much everything inspired him to write poetry, and it seems he appreciated many art forms. Koch's book The Art of the Possible is a series of comics, poorly drawn and barely recognizable, but comics nonetheless.
This book may be the greatest example of Kenneth Koch's unrelenting excitement. The man clearly cannot draw, I mean he is a very bad artist, but he still filled a book with his strange pictures and poems, and then he sold it to people for money. From the way I've described it, you probably aren't very interested in picking up a copy, but that would be a huge mistake! The book is amazing, and it raises all these questions about art and poetry. Because it is confusing and kind of weird, the reader is forced to ask all these questions and analyze the poetry in a completely different way than if, say, it were in a simpler, easier to read format.

One final note about Kenneth Koch. Sometimes critics and readers dismiss him as a "comic poet." I think this comes from the fact that Koch writes about "lighter" topics. Actually, he just writes about everything. Koch has discussed this with interviewers, "I don't think the nature of my poetry is satirical or even ironic, I think it's essentially lyrical but again I don't know if it's my position to say what my poetry is like." A lot of people agree that the New York school poets helped to move poetry away from an emphasis on "serious" content, and I agree. There are probably many people who think that is a bad thing, but, quite simply, they are wrong.

"Self Portrait" by Larry Rivers

Here are my sources:

Interview with Koch:

Article about Koch...though I'm not sure why it's in The Nation:

Koch Bio:

Wikipedia on Koch:

P.S. Sorry for the awful formatting of this post.

God Bless Your Family, or Whatever Happens to Us.

Look at the hole in
the ceiling I think
it will spread and
burst and all the
water will leak.

He has the disease of
long fingers, and long
bones, and they call him
Dr. Fun. I've already
seen him. away.
I asked him to
compare and come

Don't do that. it looks like you're picking your nose.
are you a comic poet? what it means is that you
didn't understand, so you decided it was
funny. uncomfortable is what.

Each time it's better and better and better and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better
i'm not done
and better
and better
and better
and better
and better.

Is she good because
of her tests?
is it weird how you
can't write down music.
I hate you.

"What did you set out to do,
young friend?"

"I set out to do something, anything.
it was so easy to destroy."

"And where do you take all of
your inspiration from?"

"I have all these dreams, but I'm
actually awake. In these dreams
I go on working, but I am haunted
by days."

"And how many times have you
been to this city?"

"I have
always lived here. I find myself
You cannot escape a dream."

"What are your plans for the

"Drink as much Mr. Pibb, or Dr.
Skipper in the Mid West, as possible.
Never read.
Never stop.
Never sleep.
Never say hello.
Never eat an animal.
I will continue to do this."

"What has your diet been like?"

"Haunting. Absolutely haunting.
taking a vacation in the fall, and
I hope to have made some decisions.
Boys are haunting, and scary,
but they are ALWAYS in my dreams.
How kind they are. to me. Dreams
are truly haunting."

"I'd like you to think back
to 1937."

"I remember...I see...what do you remember?"

"What do you remember?


"What had you been doing?"

"I...was...riding in a train. And...I saw
in the distance. But, what kind of train was it...
You the distance...or maybe in the water.
I know now..."

"Know what?"

"That I've seen you."

"Seen who?"

"Seen nothing, really.
Some things you read while listening to
music, and then when you read it
without the music it isn't as good.
Shit is in my art."

"Where have you been?"

"You seem tired. This
escape may never come.
We should listen to some

"Where did you go?"

"Oh, windows. I went there.
Winter, too. 'Lots of winter.
I tried to punch a window.
I hear cat coughing...all the
fucking time."

"Did you go?"

"Did you go? I'm trying
to remember when I was
16. I can't remember the
size of my thighs. I get so
alone. Quickly. This song is
so beautiful!"

"Do you have feelings about this?"

"Is she better than us? Why is she?
Why do they like her? So many of us
are so much better. We don't have to pretend
about anything.
We don't have to expose the inner
workings of our lives.
We don't have to talk
about our sex times
or our interesting
You are the worst kind!
I don't understand anything!
I understand less and less

"Everything is different."

"Fuck that.
People like me
best friends.
We are different, but we are...
better. I have a sudden
and powerful headache.
In this light, anything
can be."

"Now, it is time for me to leave."

"I'll just leave you
here like this. You look
asleep. You are.
Rhythm or not.
God bless you; you
are scared.
God bless you;
you have sugar all
over your small face.
God bless you;
I am so sorry.
God bless you;
you are floating
on the lake.
God Bless
your family, or whatever
happens to us."

Monday, January 19, 2009

The facts of life


Black Powder sounds like
the name of my favorite scooter.
"Tack Snowder"

Fool. I'd yell at you
more, but it's easier to
just light you on
fire. People say
things and they don't
even know how
angry I get

I say things that
make me sound
unbelievably stupid.
And then you get a
feeling like you ate
too much.
I say that what I'm
writing is sort
of useless. That
no one ever
felt better for
having seen it.

How do you feel?
really. All the goddamn
keys are sticking.

I think, who actually
wants to read
this? I think, you
have never really
done anything, but
you're good at lying to

Read "the guide to
getting it on" and
you'll see how out of
date it is.
Wear makeup and
you'll see how
out of date it is.

I read the entire
text in one
sitting, and was
shocked to discover
that fingers are
for Zen fucking!


I parked my car
near the

When I heard the
word "Airbus"
I thought of how
maybe in midair
one plane transfers
all of its passengers
to another plane.
that is the airbus.
and then the
original plane
heads back to base.

I walked home from
the helicopter crash
and thought of all my
French friends, but
couldn't remember their
names. Cuba, Cuba!

The lamp ray is my god
that's ugly. They call it vampire
and they kill it with sex.
I stick plants in the
microwave just to
make sure they
are dead.
the country dead are
harder to kill.

The country dead are
hiding under my home,
but if I keep the microwave
on at all times
I am safe.


Look here!
An ice sculpture
of ET, he looks
so well rested and

What does this say about

26 floors
burn to the
the blaze was
started by two
misbehaving rascal
puppies who are pictured
below in tank tops!

There is no guidance
for the believers and
they go crazy when the
devil doesn't show up.

There is this new way you
are writing.
I don't like it.
Goddamn, where did you
learn to type?
Talk to me on the
phone in a year
and we'll see how
you feel.

7 Things

1. Pizza makes me horny.

2. I wear long johns under all my clothes...and in the shower.

3. I have many collections. Examples include spoons, thimbles, stamps, hair, cat teeth, juice, and novelty baseball hats.

4. I can't read.

5. I am the author of 12 self-help books, and one biography on Tom Cruise.

6. My real name is Charles.

7. Numbers 1-7 of this list make me horny.


We were talking about Puritanism in class the other day, so of course I need an obligatory pilgrim picture. Say whatever you want about the Salem Witch Trials, belt buckle hats, frumpy-ass capes, general shitiness toward Native Americans, and full body underpants. No one can deny they were some sexy motherfuckers. Mmmm, yeah. That's it. Nothing is hotter than a man with mouth length hair and a flashy belt set about his waist. Is that a large old-timey gun powder powered musket you have there? Hawt. Careful, though, ladies. If you try getting with brother Cornelius Blackerby before you're married, he will light you on fire.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zoo Times

I see you
you are three hours
I won't see you
fun times
we call you chef
Red head
He hates you

Do you remember
how long her
hair was?
So long
she used it
to rope elephants

She is probably
and a prostitute.
I miss her.
we both
came into
some money
at the
same time
and our fathers
have the
same health

Tell me about
horses in
Chula Vista.
Tell me about
the hilltop district
where do we live

it doesn't really matter.
I wrote a poem
and it fell asleep
in the middle
then I went to a
store and bought
an assortment

Then I went home
and put away the
and I fell asleep

I tried to write
the poem again.
I comb my hair
no fun. bummer

I try to make a hair
based soup
for the big day
they call me "Dr."

The soup fell asleep
as well.
I fed it to people
and they peed

Child one says
"a rocket!"
child two lights a
cigarette and begins
to smoke.
They both run so fast
past a bridge

Child one says
"you are an angel!"
child two begins to
smoke again,
and says
"is this the first song
you have ever heard?"

Child one says
"I have been away
so long, but am glad to be here"

I write a poem and it kills
everyone who reads it.

I write another poem
and it talks about how
it doesn't really like
poetry that much
But I do love animals.

The next poem says
"isn't it sad when
children die, write a
poem that pretends to mean
anything at all"

I take a break
from the poem for
about eight years.
I write only
monster poems.
wildly successful.

but i remember this poem.
I try to say, "Maggie, my god, are
you still alive? Write this poem
for me"

Tattoo only the
animal friends
on my body.
I don't want to
read poetry.
so i read recipes
and give people

10 years go by.
I have not read

I keep a healthy
distance from
all things, except
for the animals.

I stop all
liquids and
burn juniper trees.

I misspell all things
and capitalize and don't.
I stop cleaning things.

I have not read
anything in years now.

Now wherever I look
a small lightening bolt
is striking things.

I hit my head 56
times that year.

I try to say
things to people,
but it's useless.
I talk to the animals
and the beeping sound
never ends.

I think, "he would be
an awful boyfriend"
I am always right.

I laugh, but not really.
After 30 years I say
"I guess I never really
have laughed"
how funny.

At age 1,256
I take up a poem
again and pick
a topic like
frog weddings
Either way

The poem is a smelly pool
The poem is a hot hot hot
The poem does not read
The poem is not a cat pillow
The poem is not a physical lover
The poem is not in bed
The poem falls asleep
The poem is not a zoo
But it reminds me of those zoo times.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Planet Earth: Deep Oceans

God is a camel waiting in

The ocean. Light is moving

Between the little water

Angel. It is a


Three lights on the head, with

Lights on your own.

Your face is curved on the ocean floor,

And you turn slowly to open your mouth.

The smaller fin.

All I see is the indent, but the red

Crabs have worked hard to

Erase you and clean up the

Evidence. Bones exist and I remember

Fondly, the clouds under water.

Are what? Underwater geysers?

A thousand of you shall be

Enough to destroy me, silver fish.

It’s like an underwater car, and it is so hot that

You die and turn white, and melt onto cars, which

You make larger. Give me away,

Will you? Is that a mouth or a penis?

I’ll start to get turned on.

How green and sticky was my underwater

Valley? Green. Double R. Make Double RJ.

The shape of Courtney. Head beneath a wave, Red! Red!

It looks like I just came upon you while you were

Frozen there in time, bottom up, in the cookie jar.

The nautilus. Beak looks like it moves gently and backward.

A star fish when it moves looks like a man crawling.

It was an octopus, actually. He changes color, and

Sweetly, he moves about. Until he is so

Far away that he doesn’t come back.

Dolphins! Run gurls, the smoke sucks you

Forward and back.

Little one digs out from the sand, write

Letters, run back to the ocean, hundreds, harder!

Is it fun? Hurry, careful, is it so fun?

Oh, quickly, I’ll miss you.

That stretch of ocean is a

Penguin. Quietly, now, back to

The llano.

Imagist Poem

Are we supposed to write an Imagist poem? I certainly can't remember, so I'll be cautious and just do it.

Looks like a devil.
is one.
mud-colored robe with
matted fur.
has fur.
He is a devil
and the robe is
just mud.
no robe. at all.
The devils eyes open
just enough to see,
but are covered with
Everything about
the devil is
light brown.
And he sits
next to
a lady with
white fur.
and those strange, wrapping
and the
eyes never touch.


Modernism is great. I really love it. Don’t believe me? Well, it’s true. I love Modernism because some of my favorite poets are Modernists. But, it isn’t enough to just say that I love Modernism. I have to show you why I love it. The best way to talk about Modernism is to begin with some history about the time period. So, it’s the early 20th century, and the Western world is experiencing all this new technology, and is really starting to feel the effects of industrialization. On the one hand, this is great. People have cars, better medicine. More and more people are moving from rural areas to cities, (at least in the U.S.) and all this great art is coming out of places like New York, Paris, and London. But, at the same time, World War I has just ended, and people are feeling disillusioned and afraid because weapons are now more sophisticated and effective. Though technology is useful and beneficial, it is developing so quickly and is so unfamiliar that people are overwhelmed. This is where, in my opinion, the Modernist artist comes into play. Traditional art forms like Realism and Romanticism are inadequate for this new era of technology, modernized weaponry, and disillusionment. The disjointed and chaotic nature of life requires an artistic form that can reflect these qualities. There was a need for a less rigid method of producing poetry. There are many characteristics of Modernism, but some of the most common are free verse, juxtaposition, many narrators (or, parallax), and fragmented text.

Ezra Pound wanted to do away with abstractions metaphors in his poetry, and preferred to speak simply, and more directly than earlier poets. As we read in “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” Pound states that the poet should “use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.” He also mentions poetic rhythm, and states that poetry should strive to be rhythmically similar to music. The most important piece, at least to me, is “Complete freedom of subject matter.” Earlier forms of poetry insisted on the importance of nature, truth, and beauty. This is all well and good, but is quite restrictive and, well, boring. The Imagist “manifesto” allows for greater creative freedom, and more importantly, better and more interesting poetry. Crazy Motherfucker or not, Ezra Pound wrote some great poetry, and helped start a movement that one-hundred years later is still cutting-edge.

I also want to talk a little bit about Gertrude Stein, Language poetry, and Cubism. I think sometimes people try too hard to understand the meaning of Stein’s poems instead of listening to the sounds in her poems. If I just listen to the sound of her poems, I find that I get a lot more enjoyment from them. Instead of trying to find meaning in the structure and placement of words in the poem, I try to concentrate on what the sounds remind me of, or how I feel when I hear the poem. I don’t know if this was Stein’s intention or not, but it seems to work for me. I think Stein’s use of Cubism in writing many of her poems is incredibly innovative, and created some of my favorite Modernist works. The idea of looking at something from every angle, and exploring all of these different meanings and memories attached to an object is fascinating, and her resulting poems, such as those in Tender Buttons, are some of the most genuine and fantastic pieces of the last century.

So, to wrap this up, Modernism is an art form, a reflection of changing values, and an entirely different way of creating and reading poetry.