Sunday, July 21, 2002


All one can say with certainty about anything that has you is "It moves!
Hey, wait a minute! look, it's moving! Look
At it, it's moving! It must have life!"
No, that's only an electric charge it's attached to a battery!
"No, that s life!" The wind blew it halfway across the street
Or from one edge of the table to another. It's not alive.
"Yes, it is! It moved by itself!
It has life! It's starting on a journey! Or is in the middle of one! Or near the end!"

-Kenneth Koch

God, I loved Kenneth Koch, poet/teacher extraordinaire. I fell in love with him when I was 11 or 12, when my sister's godmother Alice, a book editor, gave us one of the books she'd edited, an anthology of "New York Poets." Lots of the poems were hard, strange, weird. But Koch's work was just so accessible, so funny. He made a poem out of the refrain, "Asleep, and sleeping with women." Then, I read his books on kids as poets, and it blew my head off. How did I manage to forget about him? How did I manage to live in New York and never meet him, never babble to his face about how great he was?

I once had a large, sweet, amazing intern when I was a t.v. movie hussy, who admitted that one of the reasons he'd angled to get an internship in New York was so he could meet Allen Ginsberg. And he managed to do it--three times!--in one semester. I should have followed his example. Koch was a New York poet, a contemporary of all those cool guys in the 50s, Rivers, O'Hara, Ashbery, and he was also the author of several incredible books about teaching poetry to kids. His poems were light, lyrical, repetitive, conversational, his confidence that there was a poet inside of every kid just inspirational. Leukemia took him away, but we will always have his books, most especially the title of this one: "Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?"

Go out and write a poem in his honor.


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