Bill Knott (poet)

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Bill Knott
Bill Knott.jpg
BornWilliam Kilborn Knott
(1940-02-17)February 17, 1940
Carson City, United States
DiedMarch 12, 2014(2014-03-12) (aged 74)
OccupationWriter, poet

William Kilborn Knott (17 February 1940 – 12 March 2014) was an American poet.


Born in Carson City, Michigan, US, Knott received his MFA from Norwich University and studied with John Logan in Chicago.[1]

His first collection of poems, The Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans, was published in 1968 under the name Saint Geraud, a fictional persona whose backstory included a suicide two years prior to the publishing.[2][3] The Naomi Poems was well received and brought him to the attention of such poets as James Wright, who called him an "unmistakable genius."[4]

Knott taught at Emerson College for more than 25 years, published many books of poetry, and was awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship.[5]


Early in his career, Knott was noted for writing unusually short poems, some as short as one line, and untitled.[6] Later he became interested in metrical verse forms and syllabics. He was not a believer in poetic "branding" and throughout his career refused to restrict himself to one particular school or style of writing. His poetry's subjects, themes and tones were also wide-ranging. His work often displayed a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor, and he was critical of what he saw as an epidemic of humorlessness in contemporary American poetry.[7] Poets who cite him as an influence include Thomas Lux, Mary Karr, Stephen Dobyns, Denise Duhamel, Denis Johnson, and Janaka Stucky.[7] One of Johnson's novels, Already Dead: A California Gothic, was inspired by Knott's "Poem Noir."[8][9]

A selection of his work, I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014, was compiled by Thomas Lux and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February 2017.[10][11][12]

Knott was also a visual artist, known for giving away booklets of his poetry with hand-painted covers.[13]


Books published by Bill Knott include:[14][15]

  • The Naomi Poems: Book One: Corpse and Beans (1968), Follett, under the pseudonym 'St. Geraud'
  • Aurealism: A Study (1969), Salt Mound Press. (chapbook)
  • Auto-Necrophilia; The _____ Poems, Book 2 (1971), Big Table Pub., ISBN 0-695-80188-0
  • Nights of Naomi (1972), Big Table (chapbook)
  • Love Poems to Myself (1974), Barn Dream Press, Boston, OCLC 3709433 (chapbook)
  • Rome in Rome (1976), Release Press.
  • Selected and Collected Poems (1977), SUN
  • Becos (1983), Random House, ISBN 0-394-52924-3
  • Outremer (1989), University of Iowa Press, ISBN 0-87745-255-5
  • Poems 1963-1988 (1989), University of Pittsburgh Press, ISBN 0-8229-5416-8
  • Collected Political Poems 1965-1993 (1993) Self-published chapbook
  • Sixty Poems of Love and Homage (1994) Self-published chapbook
  • The Quicken Tree (1995), Boa Editions, Hardcover ISBN 1-880238-24-1 Softcover ISBN 1-880238-25-X
  • Laugh at the End of the World: Collected Comic Poems 1969-1999 (2000), Boa Editions, ISBN 1-880238-84-5
  • The Unsubscriber (2004), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-53014-9
  • Stigmata Errata Etcetera (2007), Saturnalia Books, ISBN 978-0-9754990-4-7

He also collaborated on a novel with James Tate, Lucky Darryl (Release Press, 1977). ISBN 978-0913722107


  1. ^ "Obituaries William Kilborn Knott". Archived from the original on 2014-04-07.
  2. ^ Adam Travis (2005). "An Interview with Bill Knott". Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  3. ^ Saint Geraud, Foreword by Paul Carroll (1968). The Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans. Chicago: Big Table Publishing Company. pp. 6–14.
  4. ^ Wright, James (2008). A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright. Wesleyan University Press. p. 424. ISBN 9780819568724.
  5. ^ Marquard, Bryan (March 31, 2014). "Bill Knott, 74; widely admired as poet, Emerson professor". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 18 December 2014.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Knott, Bill. "COLLECTED SHORT POEMS 1960-2008" (PDF). Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b Arnold, Robert (June 2006). "An Interview with Bill Knott". Memorious. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  8. ^ Johnson, Denis (1998). "Author's Note". Already Dead: A California Gothic. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0060929091. It is...a particular pleasure to thank the poet Bill Knott, from whose genius springs the plot of this tale.
  9. ^ Stucky, Janaka. "Book Review: I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014". Publishers Weekly.
  10. ^ Chiasson, Dan (April 3, 2017). "Bill Knott's Anti-Career of Guerrilla Poetry". The New Yorker.
  11. ^ "The Year in Reading". The New York Times. December 19, 2016.
  12. ^ Teicher, Craig (February 13, 2017). "Bill Knott's unclassifiable poetry is collected in 'I Am Flying Into Myself'". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ Cotter, John (2011). "From the Archives: Two From Saturnalia Books". Open Letters Monthly. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  14. ^ Hamilton, Ian (1996). The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 279.
  15. ^ "Books of the poet: Bill Knott". PoemHunter. Retrieved 2007-04-13.

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