Why (not)?

“Poetry is an art form; poetry is a craft.” Bill Knott

I am savoring the new book  I Am Falling Into Myself a collection of selected poems by Bill Knott. It has been edited by his friend and colleague Thomas Lux, who wrote the admiring and inspirational introduction to the volume. By all accounts Knott was a complex, sometimes depressed, often combative personality who happened, also, to write poetry that I read with awe.

He writes sonnets, one line poems, one two-word poem—three if you count the title, lyrics, free verse and rhymes.  His poems are filled with surprises. He often uses nouns as verbs and can make more happen with fewer words than any poet I’ve read in my 70 years of reading.

Lux tells the story of a chance meeting with Knott on a subway in New York in the late 1970s, where Knott showed him a notebook filled, “over and over, with different variations on two lines that showed up in his great poem ‘The Closet.’” That’s craft; that’s art; that’s workmanship.

When I read poets like Knott, I despair of ever attempting another poem. How can one presume to stand beside such talent? Yet, we writers persist. We have something eating at us, and that something just has to come out. When we encourage ourselves to persist, we make a conscious decision to be brave, to take a risk, to share our stories. I think that all teachers of writing must be writers who share their writing stories as well as their written stories.



say it’s love

that made me do it

say it’s fear

that makes me pause

before I accept

say it’s ignorance

that supplies

my hollow words

say it’s life

that in a moment

climbs the hills

and sees another valley



5 thoughts on “Why (not)?

  1. Diane, I love the form this poem takes and the question – “Why not?”. In some ways, it seems to get darker as it moves along (fear and ignorance, hollow words). I read it again and it is about how we feel when we take risks and how life goes – “In a moment climbs the hills and sees another valley” – and I am still thinking about the final word “not” and unsure. In my mind I am thinking many things. We will absolutely have to have a discussion about your poem on Wednesday before we start working on presentations! You have me thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What I love most about reading poetry is the questions it leaves me wondering. The poet doesn’t need to tell all. I’m left wondering what you did see, what fear made you pause and just what were those hollow words. And most of all, what is the real life connection or is the poem fictitious. As writers we have the choice. It’s the beauty of writing! Thanks for sharing such a thought provoking poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with Amy about the questions poetry leaves us with. A lot to think about in these words – how emotions can control actions, how life sometimes gets in the way. Thanks for sharing this powerful verse!

    Liked by 1 person

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