Three Poems by Bill Knott



Granted every poet “constantly aspires
towards the condition of music,” that sphere
of perfection which Walter Pater declares
the other arts must humble themselves before:

so why shouldn’t I kneel by the podium
and beg the conductor to leave her baton
propped upon my proselyte head like a sword
knighting me until I can hardly rise from

that ideal sill: one could have no grail beyond
that grace; could never long for that pated wand
to guide our own quest: its shadow bids us toward

the stead path still, sticking out over the brow
like some penile spitcurl: so why not die there
while maestro Mater makes his lowest bow?


“In music, then, rather than in poetry, is to be found the true type or
measure of perfected art.”—Pater.

Trans- (from poetry to music/from Pater to Mater)
hendec- (asyllabics)
ulous (ridic- of no-brow me to adumbrate the Great Pate).


Rilke (Sebastian)

He lies where he stands, he stands there as if
his bed erected him to stand this stiff:
no Symbolist can feel the real arrows
that milk his mother ribs of their marrows.

These weapons are the tech his lost, his fierce
groin shot up in proving arcs to pierce
their progeny: iron they want to be, iron,
with virile shafts that almost make him grin.

Albeit he waves off his disciples,
fateful, mild to their autotelic reels;
how male they remain, despite his example.
His patience renders droll the actors’ drill.

Renouncing, blinking life away as all,
already he allows for our survival.


To read Neue Gedichte through Paz: Modernism as the Critical
Tradition. If Rilke means “New” the same way Pound does later
when he too is driven to find a fashion stern and rigorous and
ascetic and saintlike enough (Imagism) to wrest him free from the
terrifyingly-androgynous decadence of the Symbolist embrace.
Rilke’s version of new in the Neue is sort of Neo-Parnassianism, isn’t
it? Gautier’s L’Art: the poem as sculpture; Rodin’s: the sculpture as
poem. Cold. Hard. Priapic. (In theory.)

The Two-Room Theory

Call the masturbator,
the muscular one,
and bid him whip his big cock
till it fills our mouths
with cups and cups of cum.
Tell the whores to dress
in undress and use their clothes
to get the boys hot: our cocks
are white and dirty as
old-rolled-up newspapers
and want to spout flowers.
Let the birds and bees
final-anal my seem, sow,
sew their seed
into my slit my seam.
The only emperor is
this emptier of cumcream.

Hi hum, hic he, another
office party at Hartford Surety.
These prissdressers,
they see me as ideal: well,
I do try to please my wife,
that frigidess—I grab her knobs,
I squeezey lick those glass tits
but even the big cigar, Father
Freud, couldn’t whip Kit’s
ice-cold B-cups to a curdle.
Try anything, suck her toes,
kiss her feet to make her horny
and she just lies there numb on
that damn dumb sheet she
sews fannytails across but
ask her to sow her butt, to
spread her asscrack just once
she won’t. She won’t. Nope.
Let my lamp, my limp lump dick
affix its fucks, be its cum.
The only emperor I am
is a jack-off chump.


The title of this parody comes from Helen Vendler’s exegesis of the Wallace Stevens original, in her formidable book, Words Chosen Out of Desire, pp. 50-53.

These three poems are excerpted from Bill Knott’s November 2013 edition of Homages

About the Author:

Bill Knott is an American poet. His other 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. Many of his books of poetry are at sometimes available for download at