December 11, 2007KR BlogUncategorized

Knott Worth Knowing

On his blog, Mary Jo Bang calls him “a meld between Gerard Manley Hopkins and MTV.” And Bill Knott’s blog is remarkable, in that he has put the majority of what he’s written there, for “open access, for perusal and propagation.” You can view his poems on your screen, and you can print them out as PDF files.

Strikingly funny, attractive in their oddities, Knott’s poems twist the world peculiar–and require attention. There’s this, from ALL MY THOUGHTS ARE THE SAME: Selected Short Poems, Volume One.


Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.

I’m astonished by the idea that Knott can make death so easily become surreal, mirroring what a death by someone we are close to often feels like when actually experienced–namely, the narrative force by which we understood things is trumped. And suddenly anything is possible, without reason–including embarrassment. It is possible to see in the last line a frustration at looking absurd (“Do I really have to wear this?”) But that reading is tempered by an equal reading of delight in the possibility of flying into oneself. The surreality of being pulled in those mutually exclusive emotional directions, toward both embarrassment and delight, is the engine of the poem, and the real connection to the title.

Or this, from the same downloadable book:


While orbiting
the earth
at a height of one millimeter
I notice
it tickles.

What would you notice, orbiting the earth? At the amazing height of one millimeter? What tickles? The orbiter or the earth? Or the orbit itself?

Or something completely different, and maybe where Mary Jo Bang gets the Hopkins and MTV from:


Window-glints of ice glaze fast
the mud’s ruts and runs: inch-niched
skylights patch its pattered paths;
but the chameleon’s footprints–
have they been paned with stained-glass?

Metered and rhymed, bouncing in the repeated sounds, the poem’s a joy. Or a jaw. This is poem that needs to be read out loud, and I’m asking you to do while you are sitting at your computer reading it. It sounds so good, who cares what it means, which is one type of poem Knott deftly creates. Maybe it is better to say it means in the way it sounds.

I could go on–and so could Knott. He very much is doing so on his blog, and it is worth a look.

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The Kenyon Review Associates Program provides Kenyon students with valuable experience in literary editing, publishing, and programming. KR Associates work closely with Kenyon Review staff, gaining valuable experience in a number of editing, publishing, and programming areas including manuscript evaluation, publicity and marketing, copy editing, developing web site and social media content, outreach programming, event planning and promotion, and other creative and editorial projects

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This program is made possible through an initiative of the Kenyon Review, part of the mission of which is to contribute to the enrichment of the academic, cultural, and artistic life of the Kenyon College community.

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Questions? Please contact Tory Weber for more information.