Intensely serious beneath a surface of lightness and wit, Kenneth Koch's poems "maintain power," Denis Donoghue wrote, "by rarely choosing to exert it." Koch's virtuosity -- he has written many plays, an extravagant novel (The Red Robins), and short stories (Hotel Lambosa), and has done numerous collaborations with painters -- seems part of a continuing and energetic attempt to write (in the words of Ariosto) "things never said in prose before or in verse." Almost every poem is a new kind of poem, a new flight -- in this volume, for example, the theme and variations of "One Train May Hide Another," the "poems by ships at sea," the post-Apollinairean couplets of "A Time Zone," the Chinese poetry-influenced quatrains of "The First Step," and the hundred or so brief poems that together make up the poem "On Aesthetics."
"Kenneth Koch, a unique poet, has continued to explain his 'own idea of what made sense,' writing poems for forty years, without ceasing to be human and funny, without ever forgetting what poetry is. The result, for the reader, is an unusual delight... He is above all a love poet, therefore a serious one. His idea 'to do something with language / That has never been done before' (Days and Nights), expressed with an immodesty that is only apparent, is made good throughout." Frank Kermode