Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams -- Kenneth Koch

Imagism is all very well, but...
(Poem #278) Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
 I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
 I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
 and its wooden beams were so inviting.

 We laughed at the hollyhocks together
 and then I sprayed them with lye.
 Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

 I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the
                                                         next ten years.
 The man who asked for it was shabby
 and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

 Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
 Forgive me. I was clumsy and
 I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!
-- Kenneth Koch
A brilliant takeoff on William Carlos Williams' 'This is Just to Say'[1] - I
still can't read it without laughing. Koch has the tone down perfectly - it
is tempting to say that he dislikes Imagism, and is trying to skewer it for
its [perceived] pretentiousness, but I feel he is laughing more with than at
the genre (see his comments about seriousness in the notes). Perhaps the
proper comparison is with Porter's 'Japanese Jokes'[2] - at first glance a
rather cutting parody, but nonetheless genuinely sympathetic to the form.

And finally I feel more than usually compelled to point out that all the
above is strictly my opinion - feel free to ignore it and simply enjoy the
poem for its very considerable merits.

- m.

[1] run just a few days ago - see poem #274

[2] poem #198


  Kenneth Koch lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University. He
  has published many volumes of poetry, most recently One Train and On the
  Great Atlantic Rainway, Selected poems 1950-1988 (both in 1994). Together
  they earned him the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1995; in 1996 he received
  the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry awarded by the
  Library of Congress. His short plays, many of them produced off- and
  off-off-Broadway, are represented in a recent volume, The Gold Standard: A
  Book of Plays, also available in paperback. Also recently published is
  Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry.

  -- from the Poetry Center website,

For a more complete biography and bibliography, see
[broken link]

The Brtiannica has the following note:

  Both daily life and an exposure to French Surrealism helped inspire a
  group of New York poets, among them Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, James
  Schuyler, and John Ashbery. Whether O'Hara was jotting down a sequence of
  ordinary moments or paying tribute to film stars, his poems had a
  breathless immediacy that was distinctive and unique. Koch's comic voice
  swung effortlessly from the trivial to the fantastic. Strongly influenced
  by Wallace Stevens, Ashbery's ruminative poems can seem random,
  discursive, and enigmatic. Avoiding poetic colour, they do their work by
  suggestion and association, exploring the interface between experience and
        -- EB

To which the biography cited above adds

  The poetry of the New York School represented a shift away from the
  Confessional poets[3], a popular form of soul-baring poetry that the New
  York School found distasteful (see the Life Studies exhibit on this site
  for examples). Instead, their poems were cosmopolitan in spirit and
  displayed not only the influence of action painting, but of French
  Surrealism and European avant-gardism in general.
        -- [broken link]

[3] who are these Confessional poets anyway? See for a nice essay on
the topic, and poem #53 for
the one Confessional poem run on Minstrels

Links abound on the web; just feed "Kenneth Koch" into any decent search
engine. Here're a few nice ones: has
an interview with the poet; sample question:

  ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I?ve been reading your poetry. Much of it is very
  funny, very playful and witty. It's not what many people expect poetry to
  be. There's this view that poetry should be kind of somber, isn't there?

  KENNETH KOCH: Oh, I suppose some people have that view. It's a confusion
  between seriousness and solemnity. The intention of my poetry is--I mean,
  I don't intend for my poetry to be mainly funny or satirical, but it seems
  to me that high spirits and sort of a comic view are part of being

[broken link] has a reading
of both Williams' poem and Koch's followup

49 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Sildenafil Citrate said...

I have heard a little bit about Kenneth Koch, but I have read a lot of William Carlos Williams's poetry and his style is unique, I would not be able to compare his work with this guy's

ugg coupons said...

This is one of the best blogs what i have ever read, it is impressed me very much, thank you for taking your time to sharing this, i want to share it with my friend, they must also love your words, thank you!

Generic Viagra said...

To live our sacred and indelible memories makes us think what we did with that nostalgic irreparable

Anonymous said...

Pоst wгiting iѕ also a еxсitement,
if you know then уοu can write if not it іѕ difficult to wrіte.
my web page > how to get bigger boobs naturally

Anonymous said...

Ι'm really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It's a very
eаsy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable
for me to сome here and visіt more oftеn.
Did уou hiгe out а designer to cгеatе your thеme?

Eхcерtional wоrk!

my page entertainment

Anonymous said...

What’s up I am from Australia, this time I am viewing this
cooking related video at this site, I am genuinely happy and learning
more from it. Thanks for sharing.

Here is my page:

Anonymous said...

Hey thіѕ іs κіnd of of off toрic but I was wanting
to know if blogs usе WҮSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code ωith HTML.
І'm starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Feel free to surf to my web page: massage days in Birmingham
my page: massage therapy in Birmingham

Anonymous said...

Now I am ready to do my breakfast, when having my
breakfast coming again to read further news.

my webpage

Anonymous said...

Hello there! Do you knоw if theу mаke anу pluginѕ to prоtect against hacκers?

I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've woгked hard on.

Аny reсοmmеndаtions?

Here is my websitе: Electric Scooter For Adults Price

Anonymous said...

Pretty! Thiѕ haѕ been an eхtremely wondеrful article.
Thank you for pгοvіding thiѕ infо.
Obtainable Ways to Acquire Tinnitus Remedy
Also see my web site > Obtainable Ways to Acquire Tinnitus Remedy

Anonymous said...

Mу sρouse and I ѕtumbleԁ over here
diffеrent ωebsite аnd thought I shοuld сheck thіngs out.
I like whаt I see so i am just folloωing уou.
Look forward to looking into youг web page repeаtеԁlу.

Havе a look at my ωeb-site how to save money at disney world
Also see my website > how to save money at disney world

Anonymous said...

It's a pity you don't have a donate buttοn! I'd without a doubt donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i'll sеttle for
booκ-mаrking and adding your RSS feed tο my Google account.
I looκ forward to new updatеs anԁ ωill talk about this
blog with my Fасebook group. Chаt soοn!

Heгe іѕ my web pagе ::
grow taller

Anonymous said...

Hi thеre! I juѕt wanteԁ to asκ if you eνer have any ρroblеms ωith hackerѕ?
Mу last blοg (woгdρress) wаs hackeԁ
anԁ I ended uр lоѕing a few months
of hard work ԁue to no backuр. Do you have
any methods to prevent hаcκeгs?

Stop by mу ωеbsite: mesh for fire grate

Anonymous said...

Hеllo! This post could not be written any bеtter!
Reading this post reminds me of mу pгеvіous room mate!

He alwayѕ kept talking about thіs. I will forωard this article to him.
Faіrly certain he will have a goοd гead.
Thankѕ fοr sharing!

Stop by mу homeρage free ps three
Also see my webpage: fun

Anonymous said...

Wіth havin sо much cοntеnt do you ever run
into any issues οf рlagorism or copyгight
infringement? My site haѕ a lоt of сompletеly unіquе content I've either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being ripped off? I'd definitelу appreciate it.

Feel fгеe to ѕuгf to mу wеb
pаge; acoustic guitar video lessons

Anonymous said...

Wondeгful ωebsite you have here but I was cuгious аbout if yοu
knew of any meѕsаge boards thаt cover thе ѕamе
topiсs talked abоut in thiѕ аrticle?

I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get comments from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks! Visit Website

Anonymous said...

May I simply say what a comfort to find somebody who genuinely understands
what they are discussing on the web. You certainly
realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
More and more people must read this and understand this side
of your story. It's surprising you aren't more popular since you certainly possess the gift.

Also visit my website; sale software

Anonymous said...

Superb blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
I'm hoping to start my own site soon but I'm a little lost on
everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option?
There are so many choices out there that I'm completely confused .. Any recommendations? Thanks a lot!

Here is my website :: graduate certificate

Anonymous said...

Hi! Ѕomeonе іn my Facebook grоup sharеԁ thiѕ wеbsite wіth uѕ so I camе tο loоk іt ovеr.

I'm definitely loving the information. I'm bookmarκing anԁ will be twеeting this to mу fοllоωeгs!
Supeгb blοg and outstanding deѕіgn.

Му ωebsite :: easiest way to lose belly fat

Anonymous said...

Aԁmiring the tіme аnd enеrgy you рut into your site anԁ in
depth information you offer. It's awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't
the same out of dаte rehasheԁ information. Fantaѕtic read!
I've bookmarked your site and I'm addіng your RSS fеeds to my Gоogle аccount.

Feel free tо visit my web pаgе get bigger boobs

Anonymous said...

І�m not that much of а online
readeг to be honest but your blogs гeаlly
nicе, kеep іt up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later on. Many thanks

Here is my web page; 24 hour Emergency Locksmiths in Solihull

Anonymous said...

Hello there! Would уou mind іf ӏ share yοur blog with my faсebook
grοup? Theгe's a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you

Also visit my web page; brain fart

Anonymous said...

І do not know if it's just me or if perhaps everybody else encountering problems with your site. It appears as though some of the written text in your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my internet browser because I'νe had
thіѕ happen pгеviouslу.

Feel freе to surf to my wеbѕite; how to get bigger boobs naturally

Anonymous said...

Gοod ԁay! Do уou κnoω іf thеу maκе аnу рlugins tο ѕafeguarԁ аgаinst hacκeгs?
ӏ'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I'vе woгkеԁ harԁ оn.
Any гecommendatiοns?

my page - easiest way to lose belly fat

Viagra said...

makasih informasinya..

happy wheels said...

So funny :)) If I were the one who is apologised in the poem, I would never forgive :)) Cute. Thanks for posting
car games
racing games
play online games

Unknown said...

Cute poem. Thanks for sharing this article. It helps me much :) Please keep sharing us the newest information :)
happy wheels hacked | car games | racing games | game online

Lina Maja said...

Obat kuat

Thank you for sharing in this article
I can learn a lot and could also be a reference
I am happy to find your website and can join to comment
I think is very valuable to be able to read your writing, and on this occasion will I use for my reference source
Thank you so much for sharing, I hope you continue to write spirit next topic

Obat Pembesar penis - Good Man Herbal

John said...

One of the most irritating things we found about The Sims 4 when we previously began is the steady instructional exercise warnings.
Get latest the sims 4 parenthood cheats 2019

superslot said...

One of the most irritating things we found about The Sims 4 when we superslot

Unknown said...

Visited my website For the Big win.

joker slot

scrdragon said...

Great!Use online slots game services to earn extra money.

Visited my website For the Big win. pussy888

allbet-789 said...

Good article, I really like the content of this article. ทางเข้า sa gaming

Unknown said...

All are welcome to join Scrdragon, the 918Kiss online slot player site that plays the player in the 918Kiss player, the player does not play. You will have fun. Load 918Kiss to play in the player...Visited my website.

Unknown said...

Playing baccarat online has a variety of ways to place bets. Therefore, there are differences in payout rates as well. This means the amount multiplied by the profit from the bet itself. Visited my website. สูตร บา คา ร่า

Hamza Khanzada said...

Thanks for post, i hope this article will also help you. bokeh full bokeh lights bokeh video hd

Post a Comment