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The Collected Poems

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  710 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Kenneth Koch has been called “one of our greatest poets” by John Ashbery, and “a national treasure” in the 2000 National Book Award Finalist Citation.

Now, for the first time, all of the poems in his ten collections–from Sun Out, poems of the 1950s, to Thank You, published in 1962, to A Possible World, published in 2002, the year of the poet’s death–are gathered in one vol
Hardcover, 784 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Knopf
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Jul 27, 2014 Jillian rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I love the artist Alex Katz (his work is on the cover), so I decided to read this b/c Katz loved Koch's poetry. I enjoy poetry, but most of Koch's work was too verbose + abstract. There were moving phrases like, "I am crazier than shirttails in the wind when you're near," [in the poem To You], and interesting advice, "Someone who excites you should be told so, and loved, if you can, but no one should be able to shake you so much that you wish to give up," but felt cold and intellect ...more
Christina Rau
Aug 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I like Kenneth Koch because he's so very different. Some of his stuff reminded me of the Beats. Some other poems were just insane and out of this world and good. Some were, er, uh, different. So to help you out with the K-man, I've narrowed down his over 700 pages to just a few poems you should check out if you want to read him:

The Man

The Brassiere Factory

Fresh Air


Variations On A Theme By William Carlos Williams (he redoes the This Is Just To Say poem, a poem that I've redone and a po
Dec 24, 2008 Rodney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Koch’s graceful indirections have always seemed more goofy and less urgent to me than O’Hara’s or Ashbery’s, with exclamation marks applied like rim shots or air quotes, missing the intensity and tonal ambiguity I respond to in his NY School pals. But there’s a winning lack of pretension—a discipline of not being pretentious—that I think of as Koch’s great virtue as a poet and a person (it’s hard to read these poems without imagining the person, another Koch virtue). Here he is in a characterist ...more
Aug 12, 2008 Zach rated it really liked it
People are surprised to find that he's my least favorite NYS poet, but that's like picking a least favorite child. Or something.
Maya Rock
Jul 12, 2007 Maya Rock rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Eveline, Jennifer, Sarah
I was really impressed by how many of these poems I actually read. As everyone knows I really fell in love with To Marina, but there are a bunch of other good ones and Kenneth Koch's sense of humor is adorable. However sometimes he should have just stopped. There's a lot of bad stuff in here too and you definitely get the impression he did not have to work hard at a day job and had oodles of oodles of time to write and was very cognizant there was a receptive audience who would lap up everything ...more
Apr 27, 2011 Jane rated it it was amazing
Kenneth Koch... I recently was asked to lecture in China on "What is American about American poetry?" Yes, I did get to Whitman, and others--but the first poem I read them was one by Kenneth Koch. I especially love his book of second person poems, New Addresses, but you might as well get the full set. Reading this book is like walking a beach with a metal detector and striking treasure every yard or so. For a poetry of the full human being, going along in his life and telling you about what he s ...more
John Nichols
Feb 21, 2015 John Nichols rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kenneth Koch is one of the greatest American poets of the mid-century.

His love of life is evident in both his biography (see David Lehman's The Last Avant Garde) and in his poetry. My favorite collection in this work is One Train, although the rest are quite magnificent. His works show their comic nature in his concern with revivifying poetry for a new generation of poets in an attempt to debunk and show as pretentious the academic-sounding poetry of the Confessionals. His comedy is zany, deep,
Apr 06, 2015 Greg rated it really liked it
Kenneth Koch is a major American poet, and one of the major poets from the New York School in the twentieth century. His poems cover love and a delight in the present and aesthetic. He also essentially breaks all rules. The masterpiece in this collection, in my opinion, is “The Art of Poetry” -- a magnificent tour de force of Koch’s theories. He is unflinching in his criticisms of Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, and others. Particularly interesting to me is his criticism of exigent poets, or those w ...more
Eddie Watkins
May 05, 2008 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
Koch is (or was, I never know how to refer to deceased authors, but I naturally view authors as always existing, and so always in the present tense) one of the most entertaining poets, but boy can he get cloying! Maybe the book's just too thick! Maybe Koch was just too facile!

He's also one of the funniest phrase artists around, especially in his earlier books, and sometimes master of the exclamation point(!).
May 15, 2012 A.R.B. rated it liked it
There are so many clever, funny, & perfect short poems in here. There aren't, however, 745 pages worth: it's like buying the Cassavetes box set when you'd do just fine with Killing of a Chinese Bookie. A selected Koch is probably where to start, and treat this as the B-sides for whatever you liked best (mine, for their humor and O'Hara-like madcap descriptions: New Addresses).
Jun 11, 2009 Tia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-poets
If you're a fan, read his plays as well. "The Gold Standard" is a great, kooky and strangely moving collection, though I could say that about his poems as well. I was once in a production of his one-act, "Edward & Christine," in which I played a rabbit, a statue, a nymph, a temple column, and an elephant. And that's not even all of it. AWESOME.
Aug 07, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing
I love Kenneth Koch, so for all of his poems to be together in one book is a joy...

This one is staying in the stack on my desk...
May 22, 2008 Rupert rated it really liked it
A lot to digest, but brilliant lines everywhere! Not so crazy about his "plays", but his images leap off the page and work like drugs.
Apr 02, 2009 Glenn added it
Weird long and somewhat prosey poems. Some I loved. Others I couldn't even finish. Interesting is a good sum up.
May 03, 2011 Marcus rated it it was amazing
I am really really diggin Kenneth Koch. Didn't hit me before. Now in my late 30's it is connecting!!!
Nov 17, 2008 Andrew rated it really liked it
He's the poetry man. Look especially at his short poems on aesthetics.
Jun 15, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"Some General Instructions" and "Art of Poetry" from *Art of Love*---brilliant
Jan 23, 2010 Jay rated it it was amazing
He wasn't the best poet or anything but we could've hung out.
Jul 08, 2011 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poesy, all-time-faves
Parenthesis is one of the best poems ever
May 16, 2010 Curtis rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Godfather of "Ultra-Talk" poetry.
Ofelia Hunt
Oct 11, 2009 Ofelia Hunt rated it it was amazing
Kenneth Koch is the Kurt Vonnegut of poetry.
Mar 26, 2011 Ryan rated it it was amazing
A bible.
Jun 23, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read
* 65 Books You Need To Read in Your 20s: #52

For fans of Frank O’Hara who are ready for something a little more exuberant.
Feb 25, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I loved New Addresses so much that I was really excited about this collection. Turns out the rest of his work is not as much to my taste as New Addresses. It's good poetry, I'm sure, by other standards, just not what I personally want to read. So, not awful, not great, just poems. New Addresses, though, still the bomb.
Sharon Avina
Dec 16, 2014 Sharon Avina rated it liked it
Some of his poems are my favorites but many were tedious and needlessly long and incomprehensible.
Apr 08, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Just. Read. Him.
Jan 04, 2014 Gina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Whenever I think about Kenneth Koch, the poems that immediately come to mind are "The Pleasures of Peace" and "One Train May Hide Another." This collection is rich with so much more and really does something that I think is rare in poetry--it celebrates pleasure. It is also a HUGE book--one that is fun to return to, flip open at random, and enjoy.
Anna Ignatavicius
Anna Ignatavicius marked it as to-read
Aug 30, 2016
Yara marked it as to-read
Aug 30, 2016
Erika Smitten
Erika Smitten marked it as to-read
Aug 29, 2016
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Kenneth Koch is most often recognized as one of the four most prominent poets of the 1950s-1960s poetic movement "the New York School of Poetry" along with Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery and James Schuyler. The New York School adopted the avant-garde movement in a style often called the "new" avant-garde, drawing on Abstract Expressionism, French surrealism and stream-of-consciousness writing in the a ...more
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“Poetry, which is written while no one is looking, is meant to be looked at for all time.” 3 likes

For every star in the sky
Someone is holding his ground.”
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