Above: The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch. Cover image by Alex Katz, Portrait of a Poet: Kenneth Koch, 1970.
Six decades and seven-hundred pages from the New York School poet, "that famous COKE... That no one can drink?" (a quote, from Koch's The Pleasures of Peace, 1969). This is a book to keep by your bedside, to read aloud with a bed partner, or to yourself, because Koch's words want to be said, and they are partner enough (still, a threesome, you-plus-one-plus-Koch, is best and would be, by my guess, the late author's preference). Start with "In Bed" from 1982— "When I Loved you Then that whole time Was like a bed And that whole year Was like a day in bed."
Below: Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch. New edition from New Directions Press with cover painting by Maira Kalman.
This is the memoir of Gustav Janouch who was introduced, as a seventeen-year-old aspiring poet, to Franz Kafka. Janouch's father, upon discovering his son's poetic ambitions (and sheets of writing hidden in the family piano), asked a co-worker, the published author of The Metamorphosis, to assess his son's work. Kafka liked it and asked to meet the young Janouch. They developed a mentoring relationship. The book, a record of their meetings, provides a rare intimacy with one of the more elusive literary figures of the twentieth-century. From Conversations with Kafka:
Kafka has great grey eyes, under thick dark eyebrows. His face is very animated. Kafka speaks with his face.
Whenever he can substitute for words a movement of his facial muscles, he does so. A smile, contraction of his eyebrows, wrinkling of the narrow forehead, protrusion or pursing of the lips— such movements are a substitute for spoken sentences.