“Write poetry as if you were in love. If you are always in love you will not always write the same poem, but if you are never in love you may.” ~ Kenneth Koch
Happy June! Here’s a little Kenneth Koch to nudge your nouns and activate your adjectives.
PERMANENTLY by Kenneth Koch One day the Nouns were clustered in the street. An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty. The Nouns were struck, moved, changed. The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence. Each Sentence says one thing -- for example, “Although it was a dark rainy day when the Adjective walked by, I shall remember the pure and sweet expression on her face until the day I perish from the green, effective earth.” Or, “Will you please close the window, Andrew?” Or, for example, “Thank you, the pink pot of flowers on the window sill has changed color recently to a light yellow, due to the heat from the boiler factory which exists nearby.” In the springtime the Sentences and the Nouns lay silently on the grass. A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, “And! But!” But the Adjective did not emerge. As the adjective is lost in the sentence, So I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat -- You have enchanted me with a single kiss Which can never be undone Until the destruction of language. ~ from Selected Poems, 1950-1982 (Vintage, 1985)
Charming, conversational, lighthearted, with quite a surprise at the end. Did you realize this was a love poem when you first started reading it? Love Koch’s disarming approach. 🙂
Perhaps, like me, you were delighted with how he cleverly personified the parts of speech, immediately drawing us in at the beginning with characters we’re more accustomed to diagramming than dallying with.
And what about the seemingly random things in the sample sentences? Are they connected in any way? Well, it was rainy when the Adjective walked by, so maybe that’s why Andrew was asked to close the window, which may or may not be the same window with the pink pot of flowers upon its sill. 🙂
But the real intrigue doesn’t come until we learn that “the Adjective did not emerge,” as she was “lost in the sentence.”
Good or bad?
Let’s assume the Nouns are male. Of course if a “dark beauty” walks by, they would be “struck, moved, changed.” It is a truth universally acknowledged that females have this power. They often “modify” the men they’re with. A man, after all, is ‘just’ a man until he becomes attached to the right Adjective.
Then he can become a funny man, a handsome man, a hungry man, perhaps even a brilliant man.
She will define, describe, or characterize him in one fell swoop (do we always have to do all the work?). 😀
But to be fair, in any relationship, both parties are usually changed. The Adjective, whether she’s funny, handsome, hungry, or brilliant, must also choose her Noun carefully. This could mean the difference between hooking up with handsome Colin or handsome Fabio. I’d take Colin, of course, as he’s a (now single) gentleman noun, and oh so proper. 🙂
By the time we get to the last stanza, Koch’s reveling in romantic dreamland. Enchanted with a single kiss? Oh, I am so lost in you! The Adjective will not emerge because two have become one.
Such is the way of true (adjective) love (abstract noun).
In fact, I love this poem, whose title — “Permanently” (adverb) — suggests that words, sentences, language, and a pronouncement of love in a single poem “can never be undone.” That’s my take, anyway. 🙂
One more sentence thing:
“A small bear thought it would be fitting to decorate this post with paintings by Koch’s good friends Jane Freilicher and Fairfield Porter so they could all be together again — permanently.” 🙂
The lovely and talented Margaret Simon is hosting the Roundup at Reflections on the Teche. Drop by to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend!
*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.