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Collected Poems (New Directions Books) Paperback – January 17, 1968

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

From the appearance in 1936 of Kenneth Patchen's first book, the voice of this great poet has been protesting war and social injustice, satirizing the demeaning and barbarous inanities of our culture--entrancing us with an inexhaustible flow of humor and fantasy.

About the Author

Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) was a poet, playwright, fiction and fable

writer, artist, and performer of poetry-jazz, working in the tradition

of engaged writing which he helped to forge in America. Producing

almost a book a year for 36 years, his work stands as an exposed girder

in the structure of American character and art. His friendships with

such writers as Amos Wilder, Lewis Mumford, James Laughlin, Henry

Miller, Kenneth Rexroth, Dylan Thomas, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and

others place him at the center of dissident writing in America. Rising

from his native grounds in working-class Ohio, he became a leading

figure among Leftist thinkers and artists in Greenwich Village's 1930s

and 40s. In the 1950s he moved to the West Coast where he created

artistic blends of poetry and art, and poetry and jazz. Finally crippled

with back pain during the last decade of his life, he created the

wonderful picture-poems. For four decades, on East and West Coast,

by the force of his own will and his native genius, Patchen molded a

life and art as one. With the loving support of his wife Miriam he

endured the pain and travail of years of struggle to recast an art based

on truth and striking beauty. His is one of the great stories of American

literature.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Books
  • Paperback: 516 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing; Fifth or Later Edition edition (January 17, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811201406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811201407
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #696,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Kenneth Patchen, 1911-1972, was born in Ohio, fought in WWII, and spent the rest of his life invalided by spinal disease. His was a powerful, angry voice that could sing some of the most beautiful love poems of the past century. His art was violent and primitive; usually he incorporated poetry into his painting. His strongest influence was William Blake, e.e. cummings was a mentor. He moved easily among the San Francisco poets, a contemporary of Lawrence Ferlinghetti of the famed City Lights Book Store. He was truly a poet's poet and never compromised his art.
I don't know if was influential; he certainly didn't care. His public, his peers sought him; never the other way around. I read once that he wrote "naked poetry." The following poem is an excellent example of his wondrous way with words, the beauty, the anger and the savagery all in a few short stanzas.
The dove walks with sticky feet
Upon the green crowns of the almond tree,
Its feathers smeared over with warmth
Like honey
That drips lazily down into the shadow...
Anyone standing in that orchard,
So filled with peace and sleep,
Would hardly have noticed the hill
Nearby
With its three strange wooden arms
Lifted above a throng of motionless people
---Above the helmets of Pilate's soldiers
Flashing like silver teeth in the sun.
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Kenneth Patchen is by far my favorite poet. This is a brave statement coming from a reader/literature buff who prefers poems that are far more traditional in form and meter. While I respect and admire all creative forms of poetry (I myself shamelessly admit to being a lousy poet, which is probably why I read more of the stuff than I write), I have always had a higher interest in poets who follow rhyme-schemes because I always figured that this type of poem was more difficult to write. To follow a certain pattern and meter throughout a poem, and yet to still successfully make your statement and evoke emotion is a powerful example of creativity and ingenuity. Give me Yeats and Donne over blank-verse any day.
Having said that, I must confess that Patchen was a poet who always wrote to the beat of his own drum. He rarely used traditional form or meter, yet in steering away from traditional schemes, he managed to create his own rhyme and forms in brilliant wordplay that have since been copied by never replicated. Plus, the raw, honest emotion (often rage) and powerful, offbeat images that Patchen constantly creates only get better with each read. It is difficult for me to describe the man's work except for the title I have given this review. Do not expect traditional poetry in any shape of the imagination. But do expect beauty and honesty in all the themes that Patchen explores, whether he is describing life for all of its beauty, darkness, or sadness.
In other reviews I have written for this site, I have felt the need to expand into lengthy prose in order to promote to work I was writing about.
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Kenneth Patchen is a one of a kind poet. He wrote two or three poems worth all the musty little university poetry journals put together. His sincerity is brutally sweet when he's sweet, and brutally cruel when he's angry. Every word shivers with ethical and political commitment but without sentimentality and cheap moralism. He makes Ginsberg's howls look like squeaks, and the university poets look like conmen. He makes Bukowski seem flower-scented. He's unlike anything else. That he's forgotten proves that the contemporary world of poetry is a sham and a crime.
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"I don't want to startle you but they are going to kill most of us." That has been one of the most memorable poetic lines for me since college, almost 50 years ago now. I just discovered my well-worn copy had become lost and had to have a replacement asap. While some of the references (Communist Party positions or officials in the 30s-50s) are dated, this is an outstanding compendium for someone who might like Heller, Vonnegut, Carver, Pynchon. Sounds the need for skepticism of the government and for social justice like no one else.
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