Day 10 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: “You Were Wearing” by Kenneth Koch

George Washington
George Washington (Photo credit: Joye~)

I had planned an outdoor reading today, but the weather got fickle, started spitting and gusting and causing a fuss, so I had to change plans. This is part of the difficulty I think of committing myself to producing a video a day for National Poetry Month. I suppose I can expect more of such before April is through with me.

I do rather like this video, and wanted to read this poem anyway. I like the open ended nonsense of the poem. Is it just fun, or more serious commentary on growing up in a particular era of American history, with all of its literary influence and historical presuppositions? What commentary might this poet be making, if he is making commentary at all. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

You Were Wearing
By Kenneth Koch

You were wearing your Edgar Allan Poe printed cotton blouse.
In each divided up square of the blouse was a picture of Edgar Allan Poe.
Your hair was blonde and you were cute. You asked me, “Do most boys think that most girls are bad?
I smelled the mould of your seaside resort hotel bedroom on your hair held in place by a John Greenleaf Whittier clip.
“No,” I said, “it’s girls who think that boys are bad.” Then we read Snowbound together.
And ran around in an attic, so that a little of the blue enamel was scraped off my George Washington, Father of His Country, shoes.

Mother was walking in the living room, her Strauss Waltzes comb in her hair.
We waited for a time and then joined her, only to be served tea in cups painted with pictures of Herman Melville
As well as with illustrations from his book Moby Dick and from his novella, Benito Cereno.
Father came in wearing his Dick Tracy necktie: “How about a drink, everyone?
I said, “Let’s go outside a while.” Then we went onto the porch and sat on the Abraham Lincoln swing.
You sat on the eyes, mouth, and beard part, and I sat on the knees.
In the yard across the street we saw a snowman holding a garbage can lid smashed into a likeness of the mad English king, George the Third.

15 Replies to “Day 10 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: “You Were Wearing” by Kenneth Koch”

  1. Not that this has anything to do with your post, however I would like to say your comment, ” the weather got fickle, started spitting and gusting and causing a fuss…” is a great description of the weather rather than “it started to rain” or something of that aspect.


  2. “What commentary might this poet be making, if he is making commentary at all.”

    I think it has a little something to do with the over-commercialization of public figures. I’ve never seen a Poe blouse, but I have seen a Dickinson T-shirt, and I used to own a Chopin T-shirt when I was a teenager . . . Is that a bad thing? I’m beginning to wonder. I thought it was cool at the time . . . Still, Dick Tracy neckties and Herman Melville tea cups sound a lot better than Katy Perry coffee mugs and Snooki tennis shoes . . .


    1. Oh no. Please tell me there is no such thing as a Snooki tennis shoe. Yes, despite it all, I do think I would like set of Herman Melville tea cups, not to mention the Abraham Lincoln Swing! 🙂


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