Kenneth Koch (1925–2002) was Professor of English at Columbia. During his lifetime, Koch published at least thirty volumes of poetry and plays. He was also the author of a novel, The Red Robins; two books on teaching poetry writing to children, Wishes, Lies, and Dreams and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?; and I Never Told Anybody: Teaching Poetry Writing in a Nursing Home.

IN THE REVIEW

Proverb

Les morts vont vite, the dead go fast, the next day absent! Et les vivants sont dingues, the living are haywire. Except for a few who grieve, life rapidly readjusts itself The milliner trims the hat not thinking of the departed The horse sweats and throws …

Zones

When you have enough time You can do it again and again And that is how you make a forest With each one the same In being different From all the others. You “Really want to get something done” How many trees, then, …

To Psychoanalysis

I took the Lexington Avenue subway To arrive at you in your glory days Of the Nineteen Fifties when we believed That you could solve any problem And I had nothing but disdain For “self-analysis” “group analysis” “Jungian analysis” “Adlerian analysis” the Karen Horney …

To Old Age

You hurried through my twenties as if there were nowhere to look For what you were searching for, perhaps my first trip to China. You said “I love that country because they love everything that’s old And they like things to look old—take the fortune cookies for example Or the …

The Language of Poetry

Poetry is often regarded as a mystery, and in some respects it is one. No one is quite sure where poetry comes from, no one is quite sure exactly what it is, and no one knows, really, how anyone is able to write it. The Greeks thought, or at least …

One Train May Hide Another

(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya) In a poem, one line may hide another line, As at a crossing, one train may hide another train. That is, if you are waiting to cross The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at Least after …

Senegal

Keep your courage up Walk down the street When the leper comes up to you Say “I am a Moslem” And give him a franc. Soon he will be carted away By the Department of l’Encombrement Humain. “Go to the Island of …

The Simplicity of the Unknown Past

Out the window, the cow out the window The steel frame out the window, the rusted candlestand; Out the window the horse, the handle-less pan, Real things. Inside the window my heart That only beats for you—a verse of Verlaine. Inside the window of my …