Cover image for New addresses : poems
New addresses : poems
Koch, Kenneth, 1925-2002.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 73 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3521.O27 N49 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Kenneth Koch, who has already considerably "stretched our ideas of what it is possible to do in poetry" (David Lehman), here takes on the classic poetic device of apostrophe, or direct address. His use of it gives him yet another chance to say things never said before in prose or in verse and, as well, to bring new life to a form in which Donne talked to Death, Shelley to the West Wind, Whitman to the Earth, Pound to his Songs, O'Hara to the Sun at Fire Island. Koch, in this new book, talks to things important in his life -- to Breath, to World War Two, to Orgasms, to the French Language, to Jewishness, to Psychoanalysis, to Sleep, to his Heart, to Friendship, to High Spirits, to his Twenties, to the Unknown. He makes of all these "new addresses" an exhilarating autobiography of a most surprising and unforeseeable kind. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Kenneth Koch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and was educated at Harvard and Columbia Universities.

Koch has been a faculty member at Columbia since 1959 and is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Koch has written works of fiction, poetry, essays and plays as well as Wishes, Lies and Dreams and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red, which are books on teaching poetry.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Am I a yes/ to be posed in the face of a negative alternative?/ Or has the sky taken away from me its ultimate guess/ About how probably everything is going to be eventually terrible/ Which is something we knew all along, being modified by a yes." This masterful 16th collection finds Koch, a first-generation New York School poet well-known for long, often comic works ("When the Sun Tries to Go On"; "The Art of Love"), directly addressing a variety of life's trials and tribulations through a series of one- to three-page anthropomorphizing apostrophes. Poems are directed "To WWII," "To Jewishness," "To Psychoanalysis" and to such intangibles as "Duration," "Destiny," "The Unknown" and, as in the above quote, "Yes." The poems based on time spent as an infantryman in the South Pacific are particularly effective, and Koch gives up none of his comic timing for predictable solemnity: "The hornets attacked me, and Lonnie,/ The corporal, said "Soldier get off your ass!"/ Later the same day, I stepped on a booby trap/ That was badly wired. You/ Had been there too./ Thank you. It didn't explode" ("To Carelessness"). Blending nuanced echoes of O'Hara, Stevens and Max Jacob, Koch has managed to create a form and inflection that takes on the variousness of the poet's life with startling movement and without the least bit of decaying bathos, despite the naturally reflective tone of some of the poems (such as "To Old Age"). In fact, the lightness of poems like "To Orgasm" and "To Kidding Around," while disarming, is always backed by forceful directness and sheer sonic delight. Arriving on the heels of Making Your Own Days, a book that sums up many of Koch's ideas about the pleasures of poetry, New Addresses contains some of this ineffable poet's finest work to date. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

"How can I ever say what's in my heart/ While imitating the head butts of a rhinoceros," the prolific Koch asks in "To Kidding Around," one of 50 poems in this new collection. For Koch, one mechanism of getting things said directly seems to be in keeping his poems short (with less space for his trademark antics). Readers who respect Koch's writing but aren't moved by the clown guise have been waiting for a book such as this. Yet Koch's gimmick-prone methodology is still very much in evidence: the "addresses" of the title are literal, the speaker accusing, praising, or querying abstract concepts, emotions, bits of himself, and his past. In short: self-revelation, protected by a somewhat corny "you." At its best, as in "To The Roman Forum," the outward focus becomes a means of handling sentimentality. The resulting poems vary greatly, from the clear emotional buildup of "To My Father's Business" (reminiscent of David Ignatow's early work) or "To Jewishness" to the zany mindlessness of "To Testosterone" or "To Jewishness and China." Recommended for most poetry collections, this is a perfect introduction for new readers.--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



TO JEWISHNESS As you were contained in Or embodied by Louise Schlossman When she was a sophomore At Walnut Hills High School In Cincinnati, Ohio, I salute you And thank you For the fact That she received My kisses with tolerance On New Year's Eve And was not taken aback As she well might have been Had she not had you And had I not, too. Ah, you! Dark, complicated you! Jewishness, you are the tray On it painted Moses, David and the Ten Commandments, the handwriting On the Wall, Daniel In the lions' den On which my childhood Was served By a mother And father Who took you To Michigan Oh the soft smell Of the pine Trees of Michigan And the gentle roar Of the Lake! Michigan Or sent you To Wisconsin I went to camp there On vacation, with me Every year! My counselors had you My fellow campers Had you and "Doc Ehrenreich" who Ran the camp had you We got up in the Mornings you were there You were in the canoes And on the baseball Diamond, everywhere around. At home, growing Taller, you Thrived, too. Louise had you And Charles had you And Jean had you And her sister Mary Had you We all had you And your Bible Full of stories That didn't apply Or didn't seem to apply In the soft spring air Or dancing, or sitting in the cars To anything we did. In "religious school" At the Isaac M. Wise Synagogue (called "temple") We studied not you But Judaism, the one who goes with you And is your guide, supposedly, Oddly separated From you, though there In the same building, you In us children, and it On the blackboards And in the books Bibles And books simplified From the Bible. How Like a Bible with shoulders Rabbi Seligmann is! You kept my parents and me Out of hotels near Crystal Lake In Michigan and you resulted, for me, In insults, At which I felt Chagrined but Was energized by you. You went with me Into the army, where One night in a foxhole On Leyte a fellow soldier Said Where are the fuckin Jews? Back in the PX. I d like to See one of those bastards Out here. I d kill him! I decided to conceal You, my you, anyway, for a while. Forgive me for that. At Harvard you Landed me in a room In Kirkland House With two other students Who had you. You Kept me out of the Harvard Clubs And by this time (I Was twenty-one) I found I preferred Kissing girls who didn t Have you. Blonde Hair, blue eyes, And Christianity (oddly enough) had an Aphrodisiac effect on me. And everything that opened Up to me, of poetry, of painting, of music, Of architecture in old cities Didn t have you I was Distressed Though I knew Those who had you Had hardly had the chance To build cathedrals Write secular epics (Like Orlando Furioso) Or paint Annunciations--"Well I had David in the wings." David Was a Jew, even a Hebrew. He wasn't Jewish. You're quite Something else. I had Mahler, Einstein, and Freud. I didn't Want those three (then). I wanted Shelley, Byron, Keats, Shakespeare, Mozart, Monet. I wanted Botticelli and Fra Angelico. "There you've Chosen some hard ones For me to connect to. But Why not admit that I Gave you the life Of the mind as a thing To aspire to? And Where did you go To find your 'freedom'? to New York, which was Full of me." I do know Your good qualities, at least Good things you did For me--when I was ten Years old, how you brought Judaism in, to give ceremony To everyday things, surprise and Symbolism and things beyond Understanding in the Synagogue then I Was excited by you, a rescuer Of me from the flatness of my life. But then the flatness got you And I let it keep you And, perhaps, of all things known, That was most ignorant. "You Sound like Yeats, but You re not. Well, happy Voyage home, Kenneth, to The parking lot Of understood experience. I'll be Here if you need me and here After you don t Need anything else. HERE is a quality I have, and have had For you, and for a lot of others, Just by being it, since you were born." TO MY TWENTIES How lucky that I ran into you When everything was possible For my legs and arms, and with hope in my heart And so happy to see any woman( O woman! O my twentieth year! Basking in you, you Oasis from both growing and decay Fantastic unheard of nine- or ten-year oasis A palm tree, hey! And then another And another (and water! I'm still very impressed by you. Whither, Midst falling decades, have you gone? Oh in what lucky fellow, Unsure of himself, upset, and unemployable For the moment in any case, do you live now? From my window I drop a nickel By mistake. With You I race down to get it But I find there on The street instead, a good friend, X---- N------, who says to me Kenneth do you have a minute? And I say yes! I am in my twenties! I have plenty of time! In you I marry, In you I first go to France; I make my best friends In you, and a few enemies. I Write a lot and am living all the time And thinking about living. I loved to frequent you After my teens and before my thirties. You three together in a bar I always preferred you because you were midmost Most lustrous apparently strongest Although now that I look back on you What part have you played? You never, ever, were stingy. What you gave me you gave whole But as for telling Me how best to use it You weren't a genius at that. Twenties, my soul Is yours for the asking You know that, if you ever come back. From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from New Addresses by Kenneth Koch All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.