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Dude, Cut That Out

It’s a gamble, in writing, to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. The making can become an act of inflation, taxidermy. The writer grabs a squirrel crossing his poetic path and stuffs it with metaphor. A creature previously content to obey a minimal sentience is quickly saddled with quantam mechanics and forced, at pencil point, to perform obscure east european folk dances. It’s worth pointing out that squirrels lacks the ability to say, “Dude, cut that out,” and that most squirrels subjected to such significance die within minutes of being written down.

A more honest approach to wonder is to acknowledge it the opposite way. Take an extraordinary something, and then take it down a peg. Ignore it, understate it. Put it on all fours, and see how its extraordinariness hangs with squirrels, weevils, hagfish, lice, etc.

Bill Knott knows how to do this, and with gusto.


The way the world is not
Astonished at you
It doesn’t blink a leaf
When we step from the house
Leads me to think
That beauty is natural, unremarkable
And not to be spoken of
Except in the course of things
The course of singing and worksharing
The course of squeezes and neighbors
The course of you tying your raving hair to go out
And the course of course of me
Astonished at you
The way the world is not

–from Poems 1963-1988 (Pitt UP, 1989)