PATCHEN, Kenneth (1911-1972)
Highlands, NC : Jonathan Williams, 1958. ‘Limited to 75 copies prepared & painted by Kenneth Patchen / 68’ (colophon). Octavo, specially bound in original cloth backed thick boards hand-painted in acrylic by the poet with depictions of some of his ‘fabulous animals’ (small sections of paint loss along the spine, otherwise very well preserved), front free-endpaper with early gift inscription ‘For John & Chigiy, knowing that the best of it was written for them. With love, Margaret’, and ownership inscription ‘M. Hollenback’; pp XLII; the colophon, occupying rear endpaper and pastedown, is also hand-painted by Patchen, in watercolour; fine and unique.
One of 75 copies hand-painted by Patchen.
A search of the Guide to the Kenneth Patchen Papers (Online Archive of California) in an attempt to identify the “John” in the enigmatic inscription on the front endpaper throws up John Ciardi, poet, translator and editor, as a plausible candidate.
‘Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) was a poet and novelist. Born the son of a steelworker in Niles, Ohio, Patchen suffered an early tragedy when his younger sister Kathleen was struck and killed by a car in 1926. Writing in a style which, like the poetry of Langston Hughes and Kenneth Rexroth, was often referred to as “jazz poetry,” Patchen struck up a publishing relationship and friendship with James Laughlin, the original publisher of New Directions, in 1936. After an automobile accident left him with a spinal injury, Patchen continued to work despite lifelong pain. He influenced younger poets like Allen Ginsberg and collaborated with the music artists John Cage and Charles Mingus’ (New Directions Publishing).