On the Edge

Passing through Liverpool on the way to Edge Hill the other week I called in at the Bluecoat Bookshop – hadn’t been there since we left the North West. Great to be there again, and to find a copy of Kenneth Koch’s Collected Longer Poems – I’ve had the Collected Poems for ages, and have been looking out for this for a while. The first poem’When the Sun Tries to Go On’ is a bit like trying to have a conversation in a telephone box with half a dozen people all talking at once. But still good to have the book, and to read the other poems – notably ‘On the Edge’ which I already have – bought it from Chicago airport bookshop –  in the collection with that title – the only time I was ever in Chicago. Kenneth Koch is essential. There’s something about his way of writing which makes you feel great –  full of life and energy, fizzing and unpredictable. He goes way too far occasionally but that’s so much better than playing safe, so much more interesting. And his books on teaching are brilliant. When I wrote Jumpstart, before I started to write it, I read four books which had the maximum impact on me as a writer and teacher: Ted Hughes’ Poetry in the Making and Kenneth Koch’s two books: Wishes, Lies and Dreams and Rose,Where Did You Get That Red? Just reading them through again was enough. I only met Kenneth Koch one time – in Manchester when he launched One Train in Waterstones – what a superb collection that is, too.

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