Patricia Lockwood, Kenneth Koch, and the Cincinnati Connection

Patricia Lockwood

In the midst of this long, lively, and well-done profile of the talented and funny young poet Patricia Lockwood that will appear in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine was a small but interesting moment that caught my eye.  While filling in the detail on Lockwood’s early years and literary education, the author, Jesse Lichtenstein, mentions one formative experience that fueled Lockwood’s growth as a poet:

“While in high school in Cincinnati, she encountered in an anthology a poem that was actually funny and learned that its author, Kenneth Koch, was a Cincinnati native. Koch — a fixture of the New York School, friend and contemporary of John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara — came to read at a public library in town and Lockwood went to hear him, asking a question in the session that followed. She wasn’t surprised that he singled her out to talk with afterward. She was 18 and a poet. ‘You just expect that the world will notice you,’ she said.”

This fortuitous encounter occurred shortly before Koch’s death in 2002, when he returned for a reading in his hometown.  Koch isn’t often thought of as a Cincinnati poet, but there’s something appealing about the fact that his Ohio roots kindled a spark of recognition and kinship in an 18-year-old writer in Cincinnati.  It’s a good reminder that even if the currents of the New York School often run through the streets and bars and galleries of Manhattan, nearly as often they take quite different paths.

It’s not for nothing that Koch gave this name to one of the increasingly wild and ambitious pieces undertaken by his fictional creator in his poem “The Artist“: “The Magician of Cincinnati.”

Check out the whole feature on Lockwood here.

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