Arts & Letters Academy Inducts Columbia Poet Kenneth Koch

Photograph: Kenneth Koch.

Columbia poet Kenneth Koch will be inducted today as a member of the select American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The honor is accorded only to 250 Americans in art, literature and music and is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in this country.

Koch will join them along with nine other new members who include jazz composer Benny Carter and authors Oliver Sacks and Elie Wiesel. Six Columbia emeriti faculty are already members: Jacques Barzun, Jack Beeson, Chou Wen-chung, Donald Keene, Otto Luening and Romaldo Giurgola.

A professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia since 1959, Koch has published more than a dozen books of poetry and is a playwright and essayist. He has been called "a genius of exuberance... witty, urbane, and outrageously improvisatory." His books on teaching poetry to children and the elderly are widely used handbooks for educators.

The Academy will also honor two other Columbia writers:

Lucie Brock-Broido will be awarded the $2,500 Witter Bynner Poetry Prize for young poets. She is an associate professor in the School of the Arts and directs the poetry program there. She has written two volumes of poetry, A Hunger (1988) and The Master Letters (1995).

Randall Kenan will receive the Rome Fellowship in Literature, a one-year residency at the American Academy in Rome. He is an adjunct professor in the writing division of the School of the Arts and a lecturer in English and comparative literature. He has written a novel, A Visitation of Spirits (1989) and a collection of stories, Let The Dead Bury Their Dead (1992).

Donald Keene, University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Columbia, will deliver the 1996 Blashfield Address, "The Quest for Japan," at today's ceremonies, which will begin at 3:00 P.M. in the Academy's auditorium at 632 W. 156th St., Manhattan.

Columbia University Record -- May 15, 1996 -- Vol. 21, No. 27