Bill Knott’s poem, “Monodrama,” is a bizarre sonnet whose meaning eludes even as the final couplet rings its close:
Don’t think, I said, that because I deny
Myself in your presence I do so in mine—
But whom was I talking to? The room, empty
Beyond any standpoint I could attain,
Seemed all sill to stare off before someone’s
Full length nude, at halfmast the pubic flag
Mourned every loss of disguise, allegiance
More to the word perhaps than its image—
But predators always bite the nape first
To taste the flower on the spine-stem, so
I spoke again, which shows how unrehearsed
I failed to be. I went to the window:
Sky from your vantage of death, try to see.
Flesh drawn back for the first act of wound, it’s me.
In round one, Knott upset Robert Bly and a cheering section at the John Crowe Ransom Arena which included a whole class of Harvard poets, Vietnam War Protestor poets and even drummer John Densmore of the Doors.
Fans will recall that Alan Dugan’s poem, “Drunken Memories of Anne Sexton,” upended Hayden Carruth’s “Quality of Wine,” a cheap-wine poem about old age.
MARLA MUSE: Dugan’s poem has cinematic allure, a doomed celebrity poet, and “beautiful” Galway Kinnell charming Sexton away from the narrator. It’s a bit pathetic, if you ask me.
And who wouldn’t want to ask the Muse? Yes, Dugan…you loser! Oh, gosh, did I say that?
MARLA MUSE: You did. No one deflates a poem like you do. You’re terrible.
I can’t stand that Knott poem, and I can’t figure out exactly what it’s saying, but there’s something about it that intrigues me…
MARLA MUSE: So…
BILL KNOTT ADVANCES TO THE SWEET SIXTEEN!
A last-second shot wins it, 67-66.
That takes care of Round Two in the East and North, Conoley, Creeden, Guest, Scalapino, Knott, Larkin, Nemerov, and Stanton advancing. Next, Round Two in the South and West…