Bill Knott

13 Mar

I wrote Bill Knott an email 4 days before his death, which never got a response: I had built up the courage to finally ask him if I could send him my chapbook.  I am way too shy about these things.  I said he would probably hate it but that, still, I wanted him to have it.  I had been thinking about writing that email for 2 years.

I  didn’t know Bill Knott personally, I just had a crush on him.  What’s true of Bill Knott, I think is true of what people say about the first Velvet Underground album – it sold few copies in comparison to its contemporaries but everyone who bought it started a band.  I think Bill did that for poets.

Following is the very first entry of Poetry Crush which I wrote in a frenzy after reading an interview of Bill Knott.  When I sent it to Bill he said he was “flattered and honored” — I am thankful he didn’t hose me!  (He was known for criticizing his admirers, calling them fake –He had some Holden in him!)    I like to think romance was his weakness.

J. Hope Stein

Bill Knott’s poems are the kind of poems you want to read when things get really fucked up. And things seem to always get fucked up, don’t they?

I read an interview he did a few months ago that has been haunting me where, when asked what he thought his poetic influence would be, his answer was– “You gotta be kidding. The answer is none, no one in their right mind will read my work. I’ll be forgotten and gone.” (

Knott’s poems have been important to me for years so I felt compelled to start a blog called just so I could say so. I will probably spend the rest of my life (although according to Knott, I am not in my right mind) trying to figure out how to write a poem as simultaneously disciplined and alive as Bill Knott’s To The Emblematic Hourglass of My Father’s Skull. I don’t know who out there is writing better lines.

Dear Bill, I like you…

J. Hope Stein


by Bill Knott

The night that dies in me each day is yours:
Hour whose way I stare, yearning to terra
Firma my eye. There. Where a single hair
Would be a theater curtain I could cling

Behind, dreading my cue, aching to hear
What co-hurrah. More, more of leaves that fall
Consummate capsules, having annaled all
Their veins said! Printout printemps. And yet
(Altars our blood writes a blurb for god on)
Can one ever envy enough his skeleton’s
Celebrity. Can any epitaph

Be adequate repartee for your laugh.
Days lived by me each night say less than it.
While sleep in ounces weighs me wanting.

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