I Am Flying Into Myself : Selected Poems, 1960-2014
by Bill Knott and Thomas Lux

Overview -

A selection of Bill Knott s life work testimony of his enduring, thorny genius (Robert Pinsky)
"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."

For half a century, Bill Knott s brilliant, vaudevillian verse electrified the poetic form.  Read more...

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More About I Am Flying Into Myself by Bill Knott; Thomas Lux

A selection of Bill Knott s life work testimony of his enduring, thorny genius (Robert Pinsky)
"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."

For half a century, Bill Knott s brilliant, vaudevillian verse electrified the poetic form. Over his long career, he studiously avoided joining any one school of poetry, preferring instead to freewheel from French surrealism to the avant-garde and back again experimenting relentlessly and refusing to embrace straightforward dialectics. Whether drawing from musings on romantic love or propaganda from the Vietnam War, Knott s quintessential poems are alive with sensory activity, abiding by the pulse and impulse of a pure, restless emotion. This provocative, playful sensibility has ensured that his poems have a rare and unmistakable immediacy, effortlessly crystalizing thought in all its moods and tenses.

An essential contribution to American letters, "I am Flying into Myself" gathers a selection of Knott s previous volumes of poetry, published between 1960 and 2004, as well as verse circulated online from 2005 until a few days before his death in 2014. His work ranging from surrealistic wordplay to the anti-poem, sonnets, sestinas, and haikus all convenes in this inventive and brilliant book, arranged by his friend the poet Thomas Lux, to showcase our American Rimbaud, one of the true poetic innovators of the last century.

"I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014" celebrates one of poetry s most determined outsiders, a vitally important American poet richly deserving of a wider audience."

  • ISBN-13: 9780374260675
  • ISBN-10: 0374260672
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publish Date: February 2017
  • Page Count: 256
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Poetry > American - General

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2017-01-16
  • Reviewer: Staff

Reviewed by Janaka StuckyCollected Poetry 1960-2014, the last book Knott (1940-2014) published in his lifetime, through, was assembled less than three weeks before his death. Consisting of 964 poems in an order that Knott wrote was "meant to be random," it is this final book from which his lifelong colleague Lux drew in order to edit this new posthumous collection down to a gleaming 152 poems. Here is "Death," the book's eponymous poem, in its entirety: 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. Knott published 12 books between 1968 and 2004with a variety of small and university presses, as well as major housesbut stopped in 2005 after his FSG book The Unsubscriber received a mixed response and was then remaindered. After that, Knott eschewed publishing through anyone but himself for the rest of his life, self-publishing re-anthologizations of his older work and new poems for almost a decade. The timing of his exit from traditional publishing was terrible for me, having just started an independent press for the purpose of reissuing his early works. As a former mentor of mine, Knott had been a huge influence and continued to send me his booksoften dedicated in crayonfor years after I graduated. But whenever I tried to talk him back into publishing with Black Ocean, he staunchly refused. It stung, of course, but in some ways only deepened my appreciation of his dedication to poetry itself. So when I pulled the handsomely typeset and carefully curated galley of this volume from its envelope, I simply placed it on my desk, stared at it, and eventually began to cry. This was the collection many of us had long been waiting for and perhaps the book he never wanted to be printed. It seems everyone who knew Knott has a story illustrating his eccentricity. There is so much mythology surrounding his life it's hard to leave any of it out, but really it all boils down to the portrait of a man who was orphaned as a child, institutionalized as an adolescent, struggled with depression as an adult, and remained an outsider (socially, professionally, and artistically) his entire lifeyet often shone with kindness and beauty, and above all remained passionately committed to his craft. As Lux writes in his introduction, "Knott did not become an exceptional poet because of any kind of suffering. Everybody suffers. He became an exceptional poet despite those things." Working across forms and styles, Knott remained a lyric poet at core over the decades. Loaded with images, at times epigrammatic and often absurd or surreal as he trafficked in metaphor more often than simile, Knott's poems relentlessly compress language and his lines distill to their throbbing quick. His tragic poems are funny, and his comic poems are sad; his surreal poems are rebellious, and his political poems fantastical. His love poems are incomparable and are where he shines brightestperhaps because in love he found all those heartbroken, joyful, radical, and strange themes entirely at once.Knott was both a man and a poet of paradox. Even after more exemplary books under his belt than most poets manage in a lifetime, he publicly disdained the business of writing. From Charles Simic to Richard Hell, poets laureate and rock stars alike praised his work, yet most students have never read him. Perhaps this book will provoke some sea change and bring him the recognition he deserves; I hope it does. But if not, that's probably how he'd like it nonetheless. Janaka Stucky is publisher of Black Ocean and author of The Truth Is We Are Perfect.

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