On Kenneth Koch’s Birthday: “Live Sacrifice Today”

Thanks to the Allen Ginsberg Project, I was just reminded that today is Kenneth Koch’s birthday — he was born on February 27, 1925, and would’ve been 89 today.  (He passed away in 2002).

The Allen Ginsberg Project has posted a nice tribute that focuses on Koch’s long friendship and collaboration with Ginsberg.  Some of the public manifestations of their relationship can be seen in the many links the blog has gathered, including interviews each did of the other for the New York Times, and the hilarious, spontaneous poetry duel/collaboration the two took part in at the Poetry Project in 1977.  The post also includes many links to interviews and readings by Koch.

Thinking about Koch today reminded me of a copy of a photo I have had lying around for many years — I’m not sure who took it, but it was taken in the mid-to-late 1990s, outside a church on Broadway right near Columbia University and Koch’s apartment. I remember Kenneth got a kick out of the picture…

It seems to capture Koch’s irrepressible sense of humor, his love for wordplay and the funny, wonderful way language has of escaping our intentions.

"Live Sacrifice Today," Kenneth Koch, New York City

“Live Sacrifice Today,” Kenneth Koch, New York City

You are sixty-six.  Today is your birthday.  You stand opening a cantaloupe.
You say, let’s
Try another!  You are sitting in the car,
You are twenty-three, I am forty-four and singing a Spanish song.
If she is nine years old, then I am fifty.
The birthdays come and go talking of Prospero.  Good-bye house!
Do you remember when we used to live in you
And be forty-eight years old?  One age deserves another. One time deserves another time.

— from “Study of Time,” by Kenneth Koch (Straits, 1998)

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