often the only way to survive is to play dead

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Advice from the Experts

Bill Knott

I lay down in the empty street and parked

My feet against the gutter’s curb while from

The building above a bunch of gawkers perched

Along its edges urged me don’t, don’t jump.

Bill Knott began his career by announcing its end, in a letter he wrote to a magazine, under an assumed name, proclaiming that Bill Knott—whom nobody had heard of, anyway—had died “a virgin and a suicide.” He was twenty-six. Two years later, in 1968, his début collection, “The Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans,” was “posthumously” published under yet another name, Saint Geraud. The book established the Krazy Straw conditions of Knott’s entire career. He rarely stuck with the same publisher for more than a book at a time, and he was almost always displeased when the finished copies arrived. When “Love Poems to Myself” was published, in 1974, by Lux’s Barn Dream Press, Knott threatened to sue the imprint over using the wrong image on the cover. “A few times,” Lux writes, “when I’d run across the book, the covers were torn off.”

– Dan Chiasson – BILL KNOTT’S ANTI-CAREER OF GUERRILLA POETRY: He resented publishers, assumed the worst in readers, and thrived in the era of the flame wars. His work remains a delight. – The New Yorker – 4/3/17

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