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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 18, 2005

Poets Celebrate The Work Of Kenneth Koch In Dec. 2 Prairie Lights Reading

University of Iowa Writers' Workshop faculty member Dean Young has organized "A Celebration of Kenneth Koch," a free reading marking the publication of Koch's "Collected Poems," at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

"Koch is a major poet of the 20th century," Young explains, "remarkable in part for his great comic spirit."

In addition to Young, the readers will include Mary Ruefle and James Galvin from the Writers' Workshop faculty, as well as Ashley Capps, Will Smiley, Brad Leining, Dora Malech, Jackson Wills and Haley Thompson.

John Ashbery called Koch, who died in 2002 "one of our greatest poets" and "a national treasure." Koch, a Columbia University professor who was part of the New York School along with Ashbery, published many volumes of poetry, beginning in the 1950s.

Ashbery wrote of the new collection, "Some poets have difficulty putting pen to paper. Kenneth Koch, on the contrary, could simply not stop producing poetry. Writing and living were all but synonymous for him. . . . His poetic prodigality began, as Koch explains in 'Days and Nights,' when 'It came to me that all this time/ There had been no real poetry and that it needed to be invented.' The products of a lifetime of continual inventing are beautifully on display in this awe-inspiring banquet of a book."

Charles Simic wrote in The New York Review of Books that, for Koch, poetry "has to be constantly saved from itself. The idea is to do something with language that has never been done before."

Koch wrote not only poetry but also fiction; short plays, many of them produced off- and off-off-Broadway; and several books about poetry. He was the winner of the Bollingen Prize and the Bobbitt Library of Congress Poetry Prize, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize  and the National Book Award.

The Writers' Workshop is an academic unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

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