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.

–Bill Knott

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…



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…



  1. Nooch said,

    April 21, 2011 at 9:00 am

    The lip, which was bitten methinks
    In passion, and needs some ice,
    Reminds me of the bitten lip in
    The Postman Always Rings Twice.

    • Mark said,

      April 21, 2011 at 9:41 am

      What you seem to think is a love-bite, my friend,
      Appears more like herpes to me
      But that’s not eeriest part of the pic:
      Have you noticed her little goatee?

      • Nooch said,

        April 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm

        That’s no goatee,
        That’s a “bruisey”!
        That S&M lust-bite
        Was quite a doozy.

      • Mark said,

        April 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

        Agree to disagree
        That’s what I always say
        (but I can spot a soul patch
        From a mile away).


  2. Poem support said,

    April 21, 2011 at 9:02 am


    My mother never heard of Freud
    and she decided as a little girl
    that she would call her husband Dick
    no matter what his first name was
    and did. He called her Ditty. They
    called me Bud, and our generic names
    amused my analyst. That must, she said,
    explain the crazy times I had in bed
    and quoted Freud: “Life is pain.”
    “What do women want?” and “My
    prosthesis does not speak French.”

    Alan Dugan

  3. Poem support said,

    April 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Drunken Memories of Anne Sexton

    The first and last time I met
    my ex-lover Anne Sexton was at
    a protest poetry reading against
    some anti-constitutional war in Asia
    when some academic son of a bitch,
    to test her reputation as a drunk,
    gave her a beer glass full of wine
    after our reading. She drank
    it all down while staring me
    full in the face and then said
    “I don’t care what you think,
    you know,” as if I was
    her ex-what, husband, lover,
    what? and just as I
    was just about to say I
    loved her, I was, what,
    was, interrupted by my beautiful enemy
    Galway Kinnell, who said to her
    “Just as I was told, your eyes,
    you have one blue, one green”
    and there they were, the two
    beautiful poets, staring at
    each others’ beautiful eyes
    as I drank the lees of her wine.

    Alan Dugan

  4. james bagger said,

    April 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    i used to write poems like monodrama, though my meter was never as perfect as knott’s, but i can still tell you what the poem means: don’t ever break up with your lover near an open window or you’ll wind up committing masturbation during your suicide attempt.

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