27 jun. 2007

It should be clear to almost anyone now that Kenneth Koch is a "major" (yikes!) poet, not just a name to be mentioned along side of other New York School poets in the obligatory list. The range and depth of his work is breathtakingly ambitious and successful, in so many genres and modes. Brilliant and influential.

You know those critical books published in the 80s and 90s dealing with the REPRESENTATIVE VOICES OF OUR AGE. There was usually a chapter on Ashbery (or O'Hara if the critic was a little hipper), a chapter on Adrienne Rich, one on Merrill or Merwin. Koch was not taken seriously. When I wrote a grad paper on him for Sorrentino more than twenty years ago I had the feeling of doing something new and slightly outrageous: critical prose on Kenneth Koch. Such a thing still barely exists. There is Harry Mathews on The Duplications, for example, but you couldn't imagine one of those Bloomian blurbs on a Koch book. You can imagine a Dissertation Director telling a student to take Koch out and put Ashbery or Ammons there in his stead.

It's not a lack of gravitas in the true sense. It's a lack of what people recognize as gravitas in, say, Heaney, Walcott, Merwin, Merrill, Rich, Graham, Ammons, and even Gluck or Strand. I don't want to tie that albatross around his neck. The albatross of "faux-gravitas." It doesn't fit, precisely because of his levitas. Some prefer the unexuberant, the humorless, the solemnly self-important poet. Merwin, say.

4 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

Not meet for me to say more than hip hip hooray, and also, that after all, Bloom did include Kenneth's long poems in his Western Canon. (Which long poems are forthcoming this fall in one volume from Knopf.)

Jonathan dijo...

Greaet. Any chance of getting a review copy of that?

Andrew Shields dijo...

"for Sorrentino more than twenty years ago": were we at Stanford at the same time? I was there as an undergrad from 1982 to 1987.

Or did you work elsewhere with Sorrentino?

shanna dijo...

hearty yesses from over dissa way