Bill Knott (poet)

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Bill Knott
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] The Naomi referenced in the poems was fellow poet, Naomi Lazard, Bill Knott's muse in his earlier poems.

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.
  • Lucky Darryl (1977), Release Press. (novel in collaboration with James Tate) ISBN 978-0913722107
  • 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


  1. ^ "Obituaries William Kilborn Knott". Archived from the original on 2014-04-07.
  2. ^ Adam Travis (2005). "An Interview with Bill Knott". Archived from the original on October 20, 2019. 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. ISBN 978-0-19-280042-8.
  15. ^ "Books of the poet: Bill Knott". PoemHunter. Retrieved 2007-04-13.

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