Bill Knott (1940-2014)

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knottBill Knott, acclaimed poet and friend of Ploughshares, passed away on March 13 at the age of 74. Knott published several poems in Ploughshares through the years and edited the Winter issue in 1987.

Originally publishing under the name Saint Giraud, Knott first received recognition with The Naomi Papers in 1968. He went on to author ten books of poetry, including Auto-necrophilia, Love Poems To Myself, Rome in Rome, Selected and Collected Poems, Laugh at the End of the World: Collected Comic Poems 1969-1999, and most recently The Unsubscriber in 2004.

Readers are drawn to Knott’s work for his comedic turn on the tragedies of life. We remember one of his earliest published pieces “Minor Poem”:

The only response

to a child’s grave is

to lie down before it and play dead

Author Kirsten Kaschock remembers her initial, visceral reaction and the poem’s lasting impact:

It made my head hurt. The poem seemed to act, to do something, to move as I read it. Sometimes the child was an anonymous child—sometimes my future child in tragic scenarios my insomnia liked to play over-and-over for me. Sometimes the child stood in for my own childhood. My teenaged attempts…to cling to innocence by imitating the dead seemed both absurd and wholly justified by my amorphous grief. And by Knott’s poem.

A darkly-humorous poem about unthinkable death: I claimed it. I wrote in on a slip of paper and carried it around like a fortune.

(read the full article at The Rumpus)

Knott was an associate professor and Poet in Residence at Emerson College for several years.

Knott is revered as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century and the wit and grace of his work continue to inspire young writers.  In remembering Bill Knott, we find solace in his poem “Death”:

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.

We are honored he chose to share his passion and innovative thinking with Ploughshares.