Bill Knott, originally known as Saint Giraud, was born in Carson City, Michigan. He is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston. He first received recognition with The Naomi Poems published in 1968.
He published this work under the pseudonym Saint Geraud (a figure who, it was claimed, lived from 1940 to 1966). Poet Thomas Lux wrote of the collection: “The best poems in this first collection … confront the reader with their directness and imagination …. They’re poems of anguish and frustration because the poet takes responsibility.” Knott’s poems are sometimes surreal, with startling juxtaposed images. Critic Meghan O’Rourke noted the variety of forms in Knott’s poetry, identifying the simple style of some poems and the “highly-torqued syntactic compression” of others. In The Unsubscriber, she found “the mode alternately heroic and vernacular, the subjects ranging from ecocide to the degradations of age to meditations on the sword of Damocles and Rilke’s archaic torso.”
Knott, who was an orphan, spent a year in an institution for the mentally ill in Elgin, Illinois, when he was 15; he worked with his uncle at a farm in Michigan, spent two years in the army, and wrote his first book while working as a hospital orderly. He taught for many years at Emerson College in Boston.
Bill Knott died on 12 March 2014 at age 74.
I lay down in the empty street and parked
My feet against the gutter's curb while from
All it takes is Laura Riding's riding-
crop across my butt, and I'm off:
Git-up horsie she cries astride me as