Eavesdroppers fear the hermit's soliloquy. Wake up, wound, the knife said. --from "To Live By" Bill Knott's poetic manner--surreal yet vernacular, outrageous and tender--is unlike anything in contemporary American verse. In "The Unsubscriber," he investigates cloning laboratories and spaceships, cemeteries and battlefields, talks to Damocles ...
Eavesdroppers fear the hermit's soliloquy. Wake up, wound, the knife said. --from "To Live By" Bill Knott's poetic manner--surreal yet vernacular, outrageous and tender--is unlike anything in contemporary American verse. In "The Unsubscriber," he investigates cloning laboratories and spaceships, cemeteries and battlefields, talks to Damocles and pokes fun at Hamlet, witnesses the moments before a seduction, and charts maps in the stars and in forests. Knott tells fables, poses questions, shadows spies, and breathes new life into poetry's oldest stories: love and war. "The Unsubscriber" is the first new book in a decade by a fiercely iconoclastic American poet deserving of a wide audience.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-11-22 Knott's wordplay, compression and bitingly skeptical point of view have given his verse (especially his many sonnets) cult status for decades. His first effort since Laugh at the End of the World: Collected Comic Poems (2000) shows his verbal agility at work in all sorts of short forms. Some of the love poems here, whose careful simplicity recalls Robert Creeley, may stand among Knott's best, as when he compares a romantic couple to a facing-page translation: "we fear closing the book/ will bring us face to face, mouth to mouth with/ that tongue we've always/ lost and can never kiss." The sonnet "Sub/Unsub" makes an elegant answer to Elizabeth Bishop's "Sonnet"; "A Lesson from the Orphanage" makes an appalled response to the Iraq war-"If you beat up someone smaller than you/ they won't (and histories prove this) tell." A sheaf of very short poems (several taken from Poetry magazine and the New Yorker) showcases Knott at his epigrammatic best; a sequence of wordier poems attacking war, sexism and masculinity (many with lengthy footnotes) shows him at a far lower level ("my crime my Y/ chromosome"), as does a clotted set of adaptations and translations at the end. It can be hard to know when Knott strives deliberately for awkwardness and when this self-described "windowkeeper/ of the Tower of Babel" has simply let down his guard. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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