From MG Stephens, poet, collage artist, and author of a history of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s, forthcoming from Dispatches Editions.
I love that poem, whoever wrote it, and I’ve written a response to it, but I couldn’t locate it before writing this email. If I locate it, I’ll send it along.
My office resembles Francis Bacon’s studio in South Ken, London, and now housed in the Irish museum off Parnell Square in North Dublin. Everything is a mess. The poem is somewhere in the mess. If I could remember the exact title, it would help, because it is on the computer too. More anon.
The poem is just a theme and variation on the O’Hara/Koch(?) poem. It is a most unusual poem, and as you note, not even typically O’Haralike, but definitely New York School and influenced by Russian poetry.
Again, lovely work in that essay, well written, and extremely thought-provoking, about authorship, provenance, and other issues of voice. In its way it reminds me of a narrative in a Roberto Bolaño novel.
From James Berger, author and Senior Lecturer in English and American Studies, Yale University
Thanks for the O’Hara-Koch piece. I found it just wonderful. I found it convincing, though I guess that’s not the real point. It was a kind of love story, and told with love. I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I was a student of KK’s at Columbia in the early 70s. I took his modern American poetry survey, a poetry writing course, and a course on poetic form. Koch had an enormous effect on how I came to see poetry, both writing and teaching, and the general place of poetry in life. It took me a number of hard years to pull his style and voice out of my work–and a bit of it, of course, is still there. It seems to me, just in terms of style, that the Koch authorship thesis holds water. It had never occurred to me all these years, but when I read the suggestion, it seemed obvious. Yes, of course the poem is Kenneth’s. That’s exactly the kind of poem he would write. And I did not know that the poem was posthumously unveiled to the amazement of all listeners by Koch at the memorial service. What a beautiful story, and all the more so if KK made up the poem. Which he must have–that cartoonish quality, the dialogue with the inanimate object, the sort of broad goofiness, the sweetness deflected but held, the way it closes. It’s a Koch performance piece. Or certainly could be. It could easily be included in “Thank You” or “The Pleasures of Peace.” It seems entirely in that spirit and language.
So, I really appreciate your writing this, as it deepens my appreciation and affection for both poets. And I can’t see why anyone would be defensive– defensive of what, exactly? Is there some money that changes hands if the debate is determined one way or the other? Why not let the poem float between the two, as it did when Koch first read it?
Great poems belong to everyone!