Kip Knott discusses his collection Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on, and influences on his ekphrastic poetry.
Carole Mertz: Your title Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on borrows a quote from Mark Rothko. Did the creation of your title precede or follow the collection of poems for this 2020 volume?
Knott: I had an earlier version of this book, Temporary Agnostic, which was a finalist for the 2018 Barry Spacks Poetry Prize with Gunpowder Press. Though it was getting some attention, I felt something was missing. I had a poet friend of mine read the manuscript, and she felt that there was too much “navel gazing” going on in the book. So I decided to set it aside for a while and write some new poems.
I’d seen a documentary several years earlier about Mark Rothko, an artist I knew little about and whose work had never really made an impression on me. With some searching on YouTube, I found the very documentary, which was from Simon Schama’s Power of Art series. For whatever reason, I found myself in tears by the end of the episode. Something about where I was in my life at that moment made me see and feel things in Rothko’s paintings I had never seen or felt before. I began to research Rothko’s life and fully immersed myself in his work. I wrote a very short ekphrastic poem based on the Rothko Chapel in Houston. Then I wrote another based on an early Rothko, titled “Entrance to Subway.” And then I wrote another poem. Soon I had 19 poems based on his life and works. I realized they could be broken into two groups, one concerning Rothko’s evolution as an artist, the other on more existential themes about identity and the fragility of existence.
These sequences became “Seven Sadnesses” and “The Twelve Stations of Mark Rothko,” both of which addressed the same themes as the poems in Temporary Agnostic. When I placed them in the middle of the book, I saw that all the other poems seemed to orbit around the Rothko themes, as if influenced by their gravity. I felt like this section broadened the scope of the whole manuscript and cut down on the amount of “navel gazing” that my poet friend thought was weighing the book down.
The title arose out of my researching of Rothko. He wrote, “I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.” I realized those final words perfectly described the poems in my collection, so I changed the title, and the manuscript was accepted immediately by Kelsay Books.
Mertz: You use a variety of poetic styles in Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on. Some of the poems are very short and imagistic, while others are longer and more narrative. Who are some of the poets who have influenced your own poetry?
Knott: My earliest poems weren’t really inspired by any poets because I wasn’t reading any poetry at the time. My favourite book before I started writing poetry was Brideshead Revisited. Being raised Catholic, I was almost morally bound to like it. But beyond that, I just loved the richness of Waugh’s prose. To the younger me at the time, that was LITERATURE. I also loved all of James Herriot’s books, primarily because they were about things I was familiar with: farms, farming, and animals. So I guess you could say that my first poems were influenced by Evelyn Waugh, James Herriot, and my grandparents.
What changed everything for me was when the professor of my first poetry writing class told me that one of my poems was too much like a James Wright poem. I told him that I had never even heard of James Wright. So he gave me a copy of The Branch Will Not Break to read. My mind was completely blown! I absolutely loved it! So I read everything else Wright had written, plus anyone who was associated with Wright in any way, which led me to Robert Bly and Galway Kinnell. Wright, Bly, and Kinnell, through their translations, became gateways for me to writers from other countries, writers such as Transtroemer, Rilke, Lorca, Machado, Jimenez, Ritsos, Li Po, and on and on. But even though I loved all of the new poetry I was reading, I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted to keep writing poetry. But then one day I picked up a copy of The Kenyon Review that was on the lit mag table in the lounge where our creative writing classes were held and I read Jane Kenyon’s poem “Twilight: After Haying.”
When I got to the lines, “They talk and smoke / and the tips of their cigarettes / blaze like small roses / in the night air,” I started to cry. I had never read anything as beautifully simple and precise as that before. She was describing something I had seen a hundred times before, but I had never seen it—or felt it—like that. I thought, “If poetry can do this, can let people see the world this way, then I want to be a poet.”
For nearly six years I wrote poems inspired almost exclusively by the Deep Imagists and the foreign poets that many of them translated. My first chapbook, The Weight of Smoke, was part of a larger collection, A Red Shadow of Steel Mills, that included chapbooks by three other authors. Bottom Dog Press had put out a call for chapbooks that were inspired by or paid tribute to the poetry of James Wright, so it was a perfect fit for what I was writing. The book was released at the James Wright Poetry Festival in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1991, and it just so happened that Robert Bly and Galway Kinnell were the featured poets of the festival that year. On the opening day of the festival, Bly and Kinnell did a reading of Wright’s poetry, which was amazing. Our group of poets was scheduled to read selections from our chapbooks immediately after they were through. When my turn came to read, I noticed that Kinnell had already left the building, but Bly was still there. As I started to read, I saw that Bly actually had a copy of the book and was following along with me! It was incredibly unnerving, but I made it through the reading. Later that night, Bly did his own reading followed by a book signing. After a long wait, I finally was able to hand Bly my well-worn copies of his books for him to sign, and without looking up he said, “I really enjoyed your poems, young man. I can really hear the ghost of Jim in your words. But your poems need to be longer.” I was completely dumbstruck. I couldn’t even breathe. So I just held out my hand for him to shake. He stood up and said, “I’m afraid that won’t be enough,” and he walked out from behind the table and gave me the biggest bear-hug I’ve ever gotten.
After that, I made myself read other poets to broaden my horizons. My longer and more narrative poems tend to owe a lot to Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and Jeffrey Harrison. William Stafford, Jane Hirshfield, and James Galvin have definitely influenced those poems of mine that tackle spirituality and philosophy. If I’m working on any kind of persona poem, I’ll re-read poems by Ai. Lately, I’ve really been interested in the Golden Shovel form created by Terrance Hayes, so I’ve been reading and re-reading the poems in The Golden Shovel Anthology edited by Patricia Smith and Ravi Shankar, and Peter Kahn. So I think I can trace the existence of the different approaches that I take in my poetry back to the James Wright Poetry Festival in 1991. When you get a bear-hug and a suggestion to try something different in your poetry from Robert Bly, you listen.
Mertz: In your poem “The Seven Dreams of a Mythical American King,” your imagination seems to spin at about a hundred revolutions per minute. Please tell us about the origin of this fantastical poem, so remarkable in its imagery.
Knott: I originally wrote this poem near the beginning of George W. Bush’s second term. At the time, I felt the country was heading in a very dangerous direction. Because of that, I found myself turning to writing from other countries as a diversion from the state things in the U.S. I kept reading and re-reading poems in The Horse Has Six Legs, an anthology of Serbian poetry. I also read a lot of poetry by Yannis Ritsos. I realized that most of the poets I was reading were responding to political upheavals in their own countries, which made me even more upset about what was happening in the U.S. It seemed to me there was a political power grab occurring here by the far right, so I imagined what it might be like if America was ruled by a tyrannical king. Rather than just make the poem overtly political, I thought it would be interesting to explore the dreams/nightmares of this king, using the line “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II as my psychological guide. These thoughts led to the creation of “The Seven Dreams…” It took nearly five years for the poem to see the light of day, but it was finally published in England 2010. And then Mudlark reprinted it just after Trump was elected. Sadly, it seemed even more fitting then than when I’d written it ten years earlier.
Mertz: What is your writing process? Do you “exact” poems from yourself, or do they readily present to you? Do you write at home or in other locations?
Knott: I definitely have to be in the proper mood to write. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true for me. I’m not a person who writes for a set period of time every day. I may go a month without writing a word. Maybe it’s a lack of discipline, but I can’t make myself sit down for a set time each day to write. It just doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it and the results have been awful.
When I do feel the mood strike me—the feeling, by the way, is very physical, like the sensation of frisson when you hear a certain song or watch a certain moment in a film—sometimes a phrase or an image will come to me right away and I’m off and running.
Once I do start writing, though, I don’t stop until I’ve written myself out. That may mean I write for a couple of days or for a couple of months. While I’m writing, I don’t think about anything but whatever it is I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll look through art books or watch a documentary about an artist to point me in a certain direction. Sometimes the mood will be triggered by something I’m listening too, like a podcast about a subject I didn’t know anything about. For instance, just this past week I heard a podcast about the deadliest creatures on earth, and they mentioned the box jellyfish. For some reason, that triggered my writer’s “mood”, and I wrote an absurd micro fiction piece about a person who dreams that their significant other feeds them box jellyfish salad. The piece came together very quickly and, fortunately, when I looked at it again the next day it didn’t seem to need much revision. So I sent it out and it was accepted almost immediately. Sometimes that’s how it works.
Usually, though, once I feel the mood to write, I’ll go to my overstuffed chair in our family room, turn on the TV, put on something that I’ve seen so many times that it becomes a kind of ambient white noise, usually an episode of Mad Men, or Columbo, or a Ken Burns documentary (I’ve gotten three poems from his Country Music documentary!), or one of the documentaries from the Voices and Visions series from the 1980s that focuses on American poets. Once I’ve chosen my white noise, I open my laptop and start writing. We have four cats and a dog, so usually within the first ten minutes of me sitting in my chair, I’ll have one cat sitting on one arm of my chair, the dog on the other arm, and the other three cats stretched across my legs on the ottoman.
After I wrote my first Rothko poem, I felt that I wasn’t done exploring him and his work. So for the next two weeks I found myself falling into a routine: I would wake up every morning around six a.m., grab a cup of coffee, settle in my chair, and then go through my Rothko books or watch a documentary about Rothko to prime the pump. I knew I had written myself out when, after going through the ritual I had begun a couple of weeks earlier, I found myself struggling to write anything. Up until that point, the process of writing those poems had been very fluid. I’ve learned over the years not to press too hard once I’ve reached a point where I feel that I’ve written myself out.
Mertz: Do you share public readings of new poems before publishing them? How do you know when a poem is “finished?”
Knott: Knowing when a piece is finished has always been a very intuitive thing for me. I try to end with subtle revelations, mini epiphanies, or some expression of resignation or acceptance that will reverberate with the reader even after they finish a piece. Sometimes the ending comes to me while I’m right in the middle of writing a poem or story, and so I write the ending down lower on the page and begin to fill in the gap. Sometimes what I think is the first line of a poem ultimately becomes the last line. Sometimes I know the ending first and then have to write my way to it. For instance, I have a story that was published last year in trampset titled “Real Smoke” that grew completely out of a sentence that popped into my head: “Jack settled on thirteen, even though deep down he knew thirteen was never his lucky number.” In my mind, that sentence has a finality to it, all the hallmarks of a last sentence. So I had to figure out who Jack was, what his reason was for settling on any number, why he chose the number thirteen, and why that number had never been lucky for him. The kind of person that popped into my mind was a person who dared fate in some way. I’m not talking about a daredevil, but someone who knew the risks of some aspects of his life, but never did anything to minimize those risks. My maternal grandmother was a smoker who continued to smoke even after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She knew the risks, but she didn’t care, So Jack became a smoker. And not just a typical guy who smokes, but a guy whose very identity was tied to smoking in some way. And that led me to the opening two sentences of the story, “Jack smokes. Sure he smokes.” Now I had the beginning and the end, so I just need to flesh out Jack in the space between the two. Once I have a solid rough draft of something, I’ll typically read it to my wife, Dana, and she’ll offer some suggestions—or not. The quieter she is after I read a piece, the more likely it is that she doesn’t like it, and so I know my work will be cut out for me if I choose to keep working on it. After some time away from the piece, and after some revisions, I’ll send a piece out and see what happens. Sometimes an editor will offer some feedback if they reject a piece, which is helpful. If a piece is rejected numerous times, then I’ll sit down with it again and see how wedded I am to it. If I still like it, then I’ll work on it some more; if I feel tired of it, then it’s banished to a folder of rejects.
Mertz: You have published four poetry chapbooks, your full-length poetry collection of 2020, and two more volumes to be released soon. Does the process of shaping a new collection continue to offer unique challenges? How has your selection process changed? What parameters do you set for inclusion?
Knott: When I come to the end of one of my writing phases, I look at everything I’ve written during that period and see if there’s anything that connects the poems. That’s when the process of assembling a collection begins. And usually at that stage I think in terms of chapbooks, small collections that focus either on a single theme or a specific subject. After that, I tend to assemble full-length books from the smaller collections I’ve put together. I don’t come up with an idea for a book first and then write poems to fit into that specific book. I know poets who do that, and they end up with beautiful books. I just can’t be that premeditated when I write. When I do come up with an idea for a book after assessing what I’ve written, I tend to think about that book as a kind of narrative, almost as a kind of novel in which each poem works as a chapter. I’ll even think about a central character or narrator for the book, someone who becomes the lens through which the reader will look to see things from a different perspective. That central character/narrator is always some kind of extension of me, but it’s never 100% me. I think it’s too limiting to write every poem from my own perspective, so that’s why I like to create a voice that can draw on a larger pool of perspectives. One of my earlier writing mentors was the well-known Ohio poet David Citino. David often wrote persona poems in the voice of a Catholic nun named Sister Mary Appasionata, a person who, as David used to say, believed in everything. In many ways, Sister Mary Appasionata was an extension of David who allowed him to explore issues, ideas, and ideologies that were important to him from a unique perspective. I do the same thing when I’m constructing a book. And often I will revise a poem so that it better expresses the voice of whatever narrator I hear reading the poems as I construct the book. While I certainly mine my own life for emotions, memories, situations, and experiences, I’d say that the majority of my poems aren’t 100% autobiographical/confessional poems. Sometimes when you don a mask, you feel more liberated to be your true self.
Mertz: Does Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on contain poems that were chiefly influenced by the pandemic? I remember you commented about that during the April 2021 Ohioana Library Association’s panel in which you participated.
Knott: All of the poems in the book were written prior to the pandemic, in some cases many years prior. The manuscript was accepted for publication by Kelsay Books in August, 2019. I think the biggest impact that the pandemic had on the book came in the form of organizational revisions that I made to it before it was published. I had nearly a year from the time the book was accepted until it was actually published, so once a week during that time I would read the whole thing aloud to see if there was anything that needed to be tightened or honed a bit more. The first few months that I did this, I would make very few and very minor revisions to a word or phrase here and there. But once the pandemic restrictions and social distancing set in, I noticed that was making more significant changes to the manuscript after I would read it aloud. And most of those changes had to do with the order of the poems, primarily in the first and third sections of the book. For instance, I changed the first section of the book so that it focused more on an existential exploration of the self, something I think that many of us started doing the longer the pandemic prevented us from having in-person interactions with people. The third section became more focused on relationships, both familial and societal. So while I didn’t write anything new during the pandemic to add to the book, I definitely think that the reverberations of the pandemic can be felt in the book. When the book released in July of 2020, it was amazing how many of the poems seemed to echo what was going on in the world at the time. I think one reason for this has to do with the fact that a lot of the issues I address in the book have been present in America all along and are not the result of the pandemic; the pandemic just laid them all bare. We like to think that as time passes we become a more enlightened society. Sadly, that just isn’t the case, and the pandemic stripped away the gilding that covered up the flaws.
Mertz: In that fascinating panel discussion about ekphrastic poetry, you appeared with Dominic Zaccone and David Lee Garrison. Tell us about your experience of participating on that panel. Among other poems, you read “Rust and Blue” for your audience. Is that included in your current collection?
Knott: Ohioana wanted more panel discussions for the Book Fair, so they contacted me and asked if I would participate in a panel on ekphrastic poetry, based on the Rothko poems that make up the middle section of Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on. Dom, David, Moderator Don Boozer, and I held a Zoom conference some weeks prior to the festival, just to get to know one another and to discuss our ideas about ekphrastic poetry. I knew I had met David before at a reading at Antioch University Midwest a couple of years earlier, but I didn’t think that I’d ever met Dom. During the course of the meeting, however, Dom suddenly remembered meeting me many years ago in Seattle. He said we’d met on a subway or train in the early 1990s, and I told him that the only time I was ever on a subway in Seattle was when I was going from one concourse to another at the airport on my way to or from Fairbanks, Alaska, where I lived at the time. And that was it! He remembered me talking about Alaska, and even remembered the leather coat I was wearing at the time. It was amazing! We all clicked instantly during that meeting, and it ended being a kind of impromptu reading in which we all shared a number of poems and discussed the different directions a writer can go when writing ekphrastic poetry. One of the poems that I read, “Rust and Blue,” is from one of the Rothko sequences in my collection. I think the actual panel discussion, in April, really reflected the tone and subjects of what we’d talked about in our initial Zoom discussion. Readers, if interested, can view the discussion here:
Mertz: Please discuss some writers of ekphrastic poetry that you particularly admire. Are they similar in style to your own?
Knott: Over the years, I’ve read all of the most famous poems by Keats, Shelley, Browning, Auden, etc., that are typically held up as examples of ekphrasis. But I have to admit that I haven’t necessarily studied ekphrastic poetry in general or ekphrastic poets in particular. I’m more interested in the relationship between art and poetry and the ways that art has influenced poets. I’ve always loved the work of the Modernist poets of the first half of the 20th century. The influence that art had on all of these poets is incredible. The ripple effect of the 1913 Armory Show is immeasurable. I think you could argue that the show completely changed the direction of William Carlos Williams writing from the more formal, Victorian verse of his earlier poems to the more imagistic and collage-like aspects of his later poems. Williams probably wouldn’t be remembered in the same way had he not gone to that show.
Wallace Stevens was also heavily influenced by the show. While Stevens didn’t really believe in writing traditional ekphrastic poems because he didn’t think it was a poet’s job to reproduce another artist’s work, he certainly used what he saw—both specific subjects depicted in paintings and specific styles/movements that the artists followed—to shape the form and content of poems like “The Man with the Blue Guitar” and “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.”
Ezra Pound’s writing was also directly influenced by the different styles, movements, and philosophies of the artists whose work he saw in the show. All of the major Modernist poets—Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, Hart Crane, H. D., etc.—were either directly influenced by the show by attending it in person, or they were indirectly influenced by the show through the poetry of their contemporaries who had seen it, digested it, and translated it in some way into their writing. So for me, I would say that I’m more influenced by those poets than I am by poets who are primarily known for ekphrastic poetry.
Although I will say that Steve Abbott, a poet from Columbus, published an amazing book of all-ekphrastic poems in 2019 that really helped me with my own ekphrastic poetry, A Language the Image Speaks: Poems in Response to Visual Art (11th Hour Pres). I read this book after I had written my Rothko poems; however, Steve’s approach to the artwork he was writing about really helped me as I revised my Rothko poems. Because Steve wrote about so many different artists and different mediums, he had to tailor his response to each piece so that the poem was appropriate to the artist, the subject, and the medium. It really helped to have photographs of the artwork alongside the poems, too. I learned a lot by reading the poems in that book, so I would say it has probably had the most influence on my own ekphrastic poems.
Mertz: Please share one of your favourite poems, or a portion of one, from any of your collections.
Knott: I have a poem titled “A Golden Shovel to Bury Depression” that I’m particularly proud of. It’s the first Golden Shovel poem I’ve ever written. In this form, created by the poet Terrance Hayes, you take a line or lines from an existing poem and use each word in order (from that line or lines) as the end word of each line of your own poem. Hayes’s first Golden Shovel Poem was based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ iconic poem, “We Real Cool.” Hayes called his poem “The Golden Shovel.”
I chose James Wright’s “Beginning” to use for my poem. It didn’t occur to me that I would have to write an 83-line poem to match the 83 words in Wright’s poem! It took me many hours just to write the first draft, and then many more hours to revise it. In addition to ending the lines of my poem with the words from Wright’s poem, I also wanted to mirror the structure of the line breaks in his poem, which were incredibly varied in length and rhythm. Ultimately, I’m very happy and proud of that poem. It’s a poem that incorporates many elements from my writing over the years: deep imagery, setting, narrative structure, and theme. I like to think of it as my version of The Beatles “Medley,” on their Abbey Road album, a kind of culmination of all of their music leading up to that song. “A Golden Shovel to Bury Depression” was published in The American Journal of Poetry, January, 2021. It can be found here: http://theamericanjournalofpoetry.com/v10-knott.html
Mertz: What familial or other influences directed you toward poetry, and ekphrastic poetry in particular?
Knott: The first poem that I ever wrote was for a poetry writing class I took as an undergrad at Ohio State. Initially, the only reason I was in the class was because I was interested in a woman who was taking it. When we were assigned to write a poem about something important from our lives, I had no idea what to write about, so I turned to my grandparents for inspiration.
As a teenager I’d spend whole summers with my grandparents who lived in Perry County in a remote coal mining area of Ohio in the foothills of Northern Appalachia. My grandfather worked the mines until he and his father were injured in an explosion in the 1940s. My grandparents relocated to Columbus, but they would drive down to Perry County every weekend to work on building their retirement home.
During my childhood, my family—all seven of us!—would load into our Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser station wagon and drive to my grandparents’ place for long weekends and holidays. By the time I was a teenager, they had retired, so I was able to spend whole summers living with them. Every day I had chores to do: one day I would help my grandfather work his huge three-acre vegetable garden; the next day I would help my grandmother can vegetables for the winter; the day after that I would help my grandfather re-shingle the roof. My summers with my grandparents taught me to be a Jack-of-All-Trades, which has served me well throughout my life.
But when it came time to write a poem, I wasn’t prepared for that at all. No one in my family was a writer, so I hadn’t been trained in any way about how to write creatively. When I had to write a poem about something important in my life, I decided to write about something with which I was intimately familiar: my grandfather’s garden hoe, a tool that I had used for hours every summer. As a lifelong fingernail biter, I looked at the hoe and thought it looked like a fingernail that had been bitten to the quick, so that’s how I described it. And, unbelievable to me, the professor really loved the poem!
From then on I kept turning to my grandparents for inspiration. They were both amazing storytellers. They had struggled to survive and raise three sons during a depression and a world war. It was at that point that I realized I had become a miner myself, mining their stories for images, anecdotes, and characters.
Eventually, though, my poetry professor told me that I needed to broaden my subject matter. So I began to write about Van Gogh’s paintings, not even knowing there was a term for that kind of writing. I only knew about Van Gogh’s paintings because I loved Don McClean’s song “Vincent” when I was a boy and had checked out books from the library about him and his paintings. I knew he’d lived with and preached to coal miners before he devoted himself to painting. The ekphrastic poems that I wrote based on his paintings focused almost exclusively on paintings that had to do with farming. So even when I was writing about Van Gogh’s paintings, I was still writing about my grandparents.
Mertz: Some of your poems include intensely personal elements. (I’m thinking of Bigfoot Crossing” in which you include specific characteristics of your father.) Is it difficult for you to offer poems of that nature to the public?
Knott: I’ve never shied away from talking or writing about my personal life. As a teacher, I draw on stories from my personal life all the time as a way of putting things into a context that students can connect with. And the creative nonfiction I’ve written and published is completely autobiographical. I had an essay published last year about how I was groomed by a sexual predator when I was 15-years old, so it’s not difficult for me to get very personal in my writing. That said, though, I believe writing poetry, short stories, and novels allows writers to take a more artistic approach and rely more heavily on imagery, metaphor, symbolism, allusion, etc. While I draw on situations, people, and setting from my own life, most of the time I create composite situations, people, and characters.
When I taught creative writing, I used to impress upon my students that they shouldn’t assume the “I” in a poem is the poet. If poets are limited to only writing about themselves, they become prisoner to themselves.
Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to work briefly with the great poet Mark Strand. While discussing one of my poems, he pointed to a detail in the poem and told me it was a bit “cornball.” I told him the detail was true. His response was, “That kind of truth doesn’t matter. You’re not a reporter, are you? The only truth you need to pay attention to is the truth of the poem.” I’d never thought about a poem in that way before and it really freed me up to try new things.
What I want readers to think about and feel when they read “Bigfoot Crossing” is that distance can grow between two people if they don’t take the time to try to understand and accept that they don’t have to believe in the same thing to love one another. The real truth of “Bigfoot Crossing” is my desire for the freedom to believe in something more than the Catholicism that was such a big part of my parents’ lives, and, by extension, my life. The father in that poem is a composite of my father, my father’s father, and some of the priests I knew when I was an altar boy.
Mertz: Which collections will follow Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on? Are they similarly ekphrastic in nature?
Knott: So this has been an incredible couple of years for me. The one silver lining of the pandemic for me has been the amount of time I’ve had to revisit older poems and write new poems. I’ve managed to put two new books together since the pandemic began. Between 1991 and 2019, I had published four small chapbooks. Since July of 2020, I have had two full-length books of poetry published by Kelsay Books, Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on, and Clean Coal Burn, and a third full-length book, Hinterlands, is underway.
Clean Coal Burn takes poems from my first chapbook published in 1991, The Weight of Smoke, and places them in a more contemporary context with newer poems. The poems from my first chapbook are based on the stories my grandparents used to tell me about the Northern Appalachian region of Ohio, which used to be coal country. My father’s people settled in that area in the mid 19th century, so I have a strong connection to it. It’s a very complicated area, one of the poorest regions in Ohio, so I want ed the book to chronicle the complex and confounding story of the region using my family’s history as a lens. There are a couple of ekphrastic poems in Clean Coal Burn, one based on Patsy Cline’s song “Sweet Dreams of You” and the other based on Hank Williams’s song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
Mertz: Where can people learn more about your work and forthcoming publications?
Knott: People can go to my website, www.kipknott.com, and find links to most of my writing available online. I’m also on Twitter—@kip_knott—and Instagram—@kip.knott.
Carole Mertz has interviewed for Dreamers Creative Writing, The Bookends Review, Zingara Review, and elsewhere. Her poems are published in The Ekphrastic Review, in various journals, and in her 2021 collection, Color and Line (Kelsay Books). Carole is editorial assistant with Kallisto Gaia Press. www.carolemertz.com
Read a review on Kip Knott by Steve Abbott.
Read an interview with Carole Mertz by Carol Smallwood, about Carole's book, Color and Line.
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