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This interview is taken from PN Review 106, Volume 22 Number 2, November - December 1995.

In Conversation with Kenneth Koch David Herd

The interview took place in Kenneth Koch's New York apartment on Tuesday 18 April 1995. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.

DAVID HERD: Who were the first poets you read?

kenneth koch: The first time that I remember being influenced by poetry, beyond being influenced by the form of poetry itself, was when I was fifteen. One of my uncles took me down to the family business and opened up a big safe and showed me some of the poems he'd written when he was nineteen years old, and he gave me a big book of Shelley. It was a hard-cover book with, I remember, a red cover and a picture of Shelley with long hair and an open collar, the collected poems of Shelley, which I still have. And I immediately started writing poems which I thought were in the style of Shelley. I realised later that my poems weren't much like Shelley, but they had sort of a Shelleyan attitude. I was standing there in the midst of all space, time and history, evoking things, and saying thee and thou. Then the next big effect on my work from other writers came when I was seventeen when I read an anthology, edited by Louis Untermeyer, of modem British and American poetry. I remember being influenced by lots of people in that anthology. And then I also started going to the library and taking out books of poetry. I remember being influenced ...

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