Weekly Poem V

This time I will offer you several selected passages from Kenneth Koch’s quite long poem "On Aesthetics." His Collected Poems was lying on my desk and I picked it up in a moment of excitement and started leafing through. I was looking for a particular poem but could not find it. So I came across "On Aesthetics" rather by accident, which makes it the more exciting.

from On Aesthetics

AESTHETICS OF BEING A BIRD

Eat brusquely
With a half-closed mouth;
When another speaks, glance up
But don’t respond.
After you have eaten
Take off
And sing
Portuguese songs—a fado, if you please!
 

AESTHETICS OF VICTOR HUGO

Place the Poet in the valleys
Place the Poet in the hills
Let the hills and the valleys
Know that the Poet is there.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF CREATING LIGHT

Put one hand
Next to a light-switch
With the other hand
Feeling for the wall.
 

AESTHETICS OF FAMILY PICNIC

Take a basket
Of food and drink
And two children
(Aged five and three),
With your husband, the painter,
As close as you can get
To the sea.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF OTHER LANGUAGE

A young woman without a word
Of English to her vocabulary
Sang like a bird
To a Huguenot student in the moss of February.
 

AESTHETICS OF GENEROSITY

Give love as a gift
But use your brain.
 

AESTHETICS OF WAKING UP

Close one eye
After the other.
Whisper "Good-bye!"
To the Unconscious.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF PLATO

There has to be something better
Than what we see. Otherwise, we’d see it.
 

AESTHETICS OF BEING A BASEBALL

Go as fast as you can
In whatever direction.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF SMALL THEATRE

Don’t bring a horse
Into a small theatre
But, if you must,
Put it on stage.
 

AESTHETICS OF SURREALISM

To find the impossible
With breasts.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF THE NOVEL

Put one plot
Inside another.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF POETRY AND PROSE

Chekhov told Bunin
Not to begin writing
Until he felt as cold as ice.
Keats wrote to Shelley
"I am a fever of myself!"

[…]

AESTHETICS OF MOSS

Moss covers
Unwilling things
The way old poetry covers
Unwilling subjects:
The death of kings,
Women lost, spring
Arrives, you take
A flower and place it
In your hair or lie
Beside it in the moss.

[…]

AESTHETICS OF THE AESTHETICIAN

What is the aesthetician
But a mule hitched to the times?
 

AESTHETICS OF TALLEYRAND

"No one has any idea
Of the sweetness of life
Who wasn’t alive
Before seventeen eighty-nine."

Kenneth Koch
One Train
1994

Koch, Kenneth. "On Aesthetics." The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 488-508.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Weekly Poem V

  1. Well, actually it is lying on my dinner-table desk that I once described to you extensively. Unfortunately, it is not my own copy, just "permanently" borrowed from the library. It has always been a bit pricy (CHF 68) but I probably end up buying it anyways. I love to just leaf through, like today, and see what catches my eye. He wrote so differently that it is always a surprise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s