Poem for My Twentieth Birthday

By Kenneth Koch 1925–2002 Kenneth Koch
Passing the American graveyard, for my birthday
the crosses stuttering, white on tropical green,
the years’ quick focus of faces I do not remember . . .

The palm trees stalking like deliberate giants
for my birthday, and all the hot adolescent memories
seen through a screen of water . . .

For my birthday thrust into the adult and actual:
expected to perform the action, not to ponder
the reality beyond the fact,
the man standing upright in the dream.

Kenneth Koch, “Poem for My Twentieth Birthday” from Poetry 67 (November 1945). Used by permission of the Estate of Kenneth Koch.

Source: Poetry (November 1945).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 1945 issue of Poetry magazine

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November 1945
 Kenneth  Koch

Biography

Prize-winning author Kenneth Koch published numerous collections of poetry, avant-garde plays, and short fiction while also serving as one of the nation's best-known creative writing teachers during a career that spanned over five decades. Associated with the New York School of poetry for most of his career, Koch used surrealism, satire, irony, and an element of surprise in many of his poems. However, "his satires are more than . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

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