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Kenneth Koch Biography

(1925– ), Poems, Ko, or a Season on Earth, Permanently, Thank You and Other Poems

American poet, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities. Koch served for three years in the US Army as a rifleman in the Pacific theatre of war. He has taught at several colleges and became resident poet at Columbia. Koch is a founding member of the ‘New York School of Poets’, with John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara. His books include Poems (1953), Ko, or a Season on Earth (1959), Permanently (1961), Thank You and Other Poems (1962), When the Sun Tries to Go On (1969), Sleeping with Women (1969), The Pleasures of Peace and Other Poems (1969), The Duplications (1977), Sleeping on the Wing (1982), Selected Poems (1985), On the Edge (1986), and On the Great Atlantic Railway (1994). Like the other New York poets, Koch has also written for the experimental theatre; his dramatic work is collected in A Change of Hearts: Plays, Films and Other Dramatic Works, 1951–1971 (1973). More recently he has published One Thousand Avant-Garde Plays (1988). As a young man, Koch lived for a time in France and Italy, and in Paris became enthralled with the surrealist poetry of Jacques Prévert; much of his own work seeks to capture what he calls the ‘incomprehensible excitement’ he found in French poetry. A surreal ironist and parodist, guided by the pleasure principle rather than the admonitory compulsions of the satirist, Koch is an accomplished craftsman who disdains what he calls the postures of high seriousness. He has also published a collection of essays and short stories, Hotel Lamboga (1993).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Knole Kent to Mary Lavin Biography