Bill Knott’s poetry collections include The Naomi Poems, Book One: Corpse and Beans (1968), Becos (1983), Outremer, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize (1988), Laugh at the End of the World: Collected Comic Poems 1969–1999 (2000), The Unsubscriber (2004), and Stigmata Errata Etcetera (2007), a collaboration with collages by the artist Star Black.
Knott published The Naomi Poems, Book One: Corpse and Beans 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 self-published many collections of his work, which are available for free through his website.
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. He died in 2014.