from Dzanc Books:
A Question Mark Above the Sun
Documents on the Mystery Surrounding a Famous Poem “by” Frank O’Hara
Expanded Second Edition
Preface by Eric Lorberer Foreword David Koepsell Afterwords by Jeremy Noel-Tod and Joshua Kotin
“At the end of last year, an extraordinary work of detective criticism briefly ap- peared, despite legal threats. Kent Johnson’s A Question Mark Above the Sun (Punch Press) movingly speculates that Kenneth Koch forged one of Frank O’Hara’s greatest poems as a posthumous tribute to his friend. A noir-ish middle also recounts some very funny run-ins with the English avant-garde. Shame on the poets who forced its redaction and suppression.”—Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Times Literary Supplement, including a previous edition of A Question Mark Above the Sun as one of its 2011 Books of the Year
What you have in your hands is a kind of thought-experiment. It proffers the idea that a radical, se- cret gesture of poetic mourning and love was carried out by Kenneth Koch in memory of his close friend Frank O’Hara. I present the hypothesis as my own very personal expression of homage for the two great poets. The proposal I set forward here, nevertheless, is likely to make some readers annoyed, perhaps even indignant. Some already are. A few fellow writers, even, have worked hard through legal courses to block this book’s publication. The forced redaction of key quotations herein (replaced by paraphrase) is one result of their efforts.
In this self-described “thought experiment”—part fiction, part literary detec- tive work, and always daring—Kent Johnson proposes a stunning rewrite of literary history. Suppressed upon initial release, this is a one of a kind book by one of our most provocative contemporary authors.
Kent Johnson is the author, translator, or editor of over thirty books of po- etry and criticism, including Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry (Shambhala Publications, 1991), Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada (Roof Books, 1998), and his most recent collection of poems, Homage to the Last Avante-Garde (Shearsman Books, 2008). Best Known for his radical ideas about authorship, scholarship, and experimentation, it was with his translations of Hiroshima-survivor poet Araki Yasusada that Johnson became both celebrated and castigated. Only after Yasusada’s poems were published in American Poetry Review did readers learn there was no Yasusada, and that Johnson was not a translator on this project, but the author. Johnson is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Translation. He lives in Illinois, where he is a faculty member in English and Spanish at Highland Community College.
Was a beloved Frank O’Hara poem written by Kenneth Koch? Kent Johnson guarantees . . . you’ll never see poetry the same again.