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Selected Love Poems (2008): A Now-Shunned Master Speaks Out

Bill Knott, Selected Love Poems (Bill Knott, 2008)

[note: review originally published 8Nov2011]

photo credit:

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us.

It is somewhat ironic that the book I picked up just after finishing The Blue Tower (viz. review above) was Bill Knott’s Selected Love Poems, one of the blurbs for which is “Bill Knott should be beaten with a flail.”, by none other than Tomaž Šalamun. I don’t think Mr. Šalamun has the right of it here (even if I adore the quote), though he’s certainly in line with current academic thinking on Knott, who enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame back in the sixties and has been hanging around like a drunk dinner guest ever since, annoying the establishment by simply refusing to go away. Knott’s poems, at their best, are short blasts of image with some wonderful surprises (“Even your shoulders are petty crimes” –”Naomi Poem”) buried in the language. Not everything here is Knott at his best, but enough of it is to make this worth your while to pick up (it can be found free online in PDF form, or you can read it in total at Knott’s blog: is the latest edition as I write this).

“Your skeleton/scrupulous abacus where
Flesh’s inconstant total of hope,
Despair, recurs, keeps score, where
Skin has no right to interrupt my pores.”
(–”7½ Poems To, For, and About RN”)

Now come on, you’ve got to love the flows and jags in that passage, don’t you? Give him a try—he’s good stuff, even if Tomaž Šalamun is one of only two dozen (at least) poets with more recognizable names who will try to dissuade you from ever doing so. *** ½

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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