Robin Wilkey
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Kenneth Patchen
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Influences: Kenneth Patchen

Kenneth Patchen to me is the Dylan Thomas of American poetry, filling that gap as he does before and after the war years and before modernism and the 'Beat' poets and novelists hit the road (Jack Kerouac - no pun intended). His first book appeared in 1936 and nearly forty original books of poetry have appeared in print. Kenneth Patchen has been described as 'the most compelling force in American poetry since Whitman'.

A number of books are still in print and selections and collections of his poetry have appeared frequently, his publisher latterly has been the famous 'New Directions' paperbacks, which was founded by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, they are also publishers of Gregory Corso's works.

Two poems by Kenneth Patchen

The following two poems appeared in the book 'First Will & Testament' (1939) and have also appeared in many collections, both are vintage Patchen and both represent him at his most prolific.

23rd Street Runs into Heaven

You stand near the window as lights wink
On along the street. Somewhere a trolley, taking
Shop-girls and clerks home, clatters through
This before-supper Sabbath. An alley cat cries
To find the garbage cans sealed; newsboys
Begin their murder-into-pennies round.

We are shut in, secure for a little, safe until
Tomorrow. You slip your dress off, roll down
Your stockings, careful against runs. Naked now,
With soft light on soft flesh, you pause
For a moment; turn and face me -
Smile in a way that only women know
Who have lain long with their lover
And are made more virginal.

Our supper is plain but we are very wonderful.

Can the Harp Shoot Through Its Propellers?

And I had it neatly written
this is the secret
 of your earth: this is its one greener tree;
 its only deep sky 
  nicely settled - holding it
The way a lover is held; stubborn of its lack
Of shame - but, a blind man, passing
In great haste, bumped my arm and gave
My words upon the dusty wind

And I stand here silent now while all the breath
Of the damn beasts snuffs about my empty hands,
Not knowing that the fashion of my art
Could not design a submarine or bomb a city.