Tag Archives: Kenneth Koch

Books Acquired Recently: Road Trip Edition

I just got back from a two-week road trip through Pennsylvania and New York to visit some family and friends, and did some book shopping along the way, all at independent bookstores. Here is what I acquired:

Ashbery, John. Breezeway. New York: Ecco, 2015.

I have always enjoyed Ashbery’s work, and his newest book has gotten good reviews, and I’ve been craving some poetry lately, so I thought I would pick it up. I bought it, Gessen and Squibb’s anthology, and Koch’s book at my favorite place in the world, the Strand.

Gessen, Keith, and Stephen Squibb, eds. City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis. New York: Farrar, 2015.

One of the things I love about going to the Strand is finding amazing books that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered, and this book looks like it will be another instance of that tradition. It is a collection of essays about the current status of various American cities (some large, like Los Angeles, and some relatively small, like Syracuse) and how they have coped with the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash. I am fascinated by both halves of this topic, thus the decision to buy the book was an instant one.

Holmes, Safiya Henderson. Madness and a Bit of Hope. New York: Harlem River, 1990.

I haven’t heard of Holmes before, but her book caught my eye because of the name of the publisher. It has a blurb by June Jordan, who has been an important poet for me, and even though it is signed (“To: Nancy Thank you so much for being here snow & all Safiya ’92”) I was able to buy it for only $5.00 from the Rose & the Laurel Bookshop in Oneonta, New York.

Koch, Kenneth. On the Edge: Collected Long Poems. New York: Knopf, 2007.

I really enjoy Koch’s work and think that his longer poems are some of the best in the American tradition. I’ve been wanting to buy this book for a while: I first discovered it at the Strand several years ago, but didn’t buy it, and have regretted it ever since. Happily, on this visit they had a copy in pristine condition, much better than the original one that I had considered buying.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: Harper, 2015.

Like everyone else interested in American literature, I am in a tizzy about Lee’s new novel, in which Atticus Finch is apparently not nearly as sympathetic as he is in To Kill a Mockingbird. I am horrified that Go Set a Watchman might destroy the experience of To Kill a Mockingbird for me, but of course have to read it anyway. I bought my copy at The Green Toad Bookstore in Oneonta, New York.

Sexton, Anne. Selected Poems of Anne Sexton. Ed. Diane Wood Middlebrook and Diana Hume George. 1988. Boston: Houghton, 2000.

I’ve enjoyed Sexton’s poems that I have encountered in anthologies and in the one collection of hers that I’ve read, Transformations. As noted above I’ve been in a poetry-reading mood lately, so when I found a copy of this book in excellent condition for a good price ($9.50) at Winding Way Books in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I decided to buy it.

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Books Acquired Recently

Ai. No Surrender. New York: Norton, 2010.

Last Thursday I was grading some student essays about Martín Espada’s poetry reading on campus last month, and, as is often the case when reading student work, I was seized with an incredible desire to read literature (in this case poetry specifically) rather than reading writing about it. So after I was done at the office I walked up the hill to The King’s English Bookshop to look for some poetry because they have an excellent poetry section. I decided to buy Ai’s last collection even though I am not that familiar with her work–I’ve only read a few of her poems in anthologies. I read the book immediately and loved it! The collection consists primarily of long narrative poems, all very smooth, probably the best long poems I’ve read aside from Kenneth Koch’s. I highly recommend it.

Bergen, David. The Retreat. 2008. Toronto: Emblem, 2009.

As I’ve written here before, Bergen is one of my favorite novelists. However, I did not realize this book existed until I recently read his latest novel, The Age of Hope, which included The Retreat in the list of his previous books. Apparently it hasn’t been published in the U.S., which is why I didn’t receive the usual notification from amazon.com about “a new book from an author whose books you’ve purchased before.” However, I was able to find a copy of the Canadian edition from one of their used booksellers.

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Books Acquired Recently

Kane, Daniel. All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s. Berkeley: U of California P, 2003.

I am a major fan of the New York School of Poets (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, et al.) and its descendants. Kane’s book covers both groups, so I bought it to read for fun.

McNeill, Elizabeth. Nine and a Half Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair. 1978. New York: Harper, 2005.

I recently learned about this book when a friend posted an article about it on Facebook which mentions that the author went to my alma mater/my friend’s former employer, Goshen College. This fact was not enough for me to buy the book, but its subject matter–bondage, a scholarly interest of mine–was.

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. A Few Figs From Thistles. 1922. Fayetteville: Juniper Grove, 2008.

I enjoy poetry, but have read very little of Millay’s work. I read about this collection in an essay on Greenwich Village in the 1920s that made the book sound delightfully scandalous, and since I hadn’t bought any poetry in a while I decided to buy it.

Both this and McNeill’s book bear a note on the final page that they were printed on 2 December 2012 in San Bernardino, California. This has also been the case with other lesser-known books that I’ve ordered from amazon.com (Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa immediately comes to mind). On the one hand, it is wonderful that publishing technology has advanced to the point where books are able to stay “in print” even when they have not actually been printed yet because more books are able to remain available to readers, which is a good, important thing. But it also helps large retailers such as amazon, who have the facilities to print the books on-site, save on warehousing costs, which gives them a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar bookstores. This is a bad thing.

All books bought via amazon.com.

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