Original Analysis found here: Analysis of "Poem (How I lost My Pen-Name)" by Bill Knott"
Poem found here: "Poem (How I lost My Pen-Name)" by Bill Knott
The pen-name serves as another identity focused on writing. However the focus is on writing the pen name:
I wrote under a pen-name
One day I shook the pen trying to make the name come out
But no it’s
Like me prefers clinging to the inner calypso
What stands out in stanza is how erratic the line lengths are for this exposition. Where is the focus? The short line stating no? Could it be the long action line.” At this point I feel the speaker is trying too hard to show how sporadic the exposition is through the line lengths, but, in doing so, separates identities — the focus is on this pen-name as an identity.
So when the speaker tosses the pen to his “pet” the wastebasket with intentions for the name to come back to him, the shock is shown in individual lines, “But no again” “It stayed down.” Realize that the focus on it staying down means that the pen-name is thrown away. That the name pen-name is truly gone. However, the seriousness of this revelation is tempered with the earlier line of “Names aren’t fit / For unhuman consumption.”
What is left them — the unhuman person when the pen-name, the personified writer is gone:
I don’t use a pen-name anymore
I don’t use a pen anymore
I don’t write anymore
The repetition adds to the slow realization that the other is lost and what is left is thought — thinking — expression trapped in a receptacle, “I just sit looking at the wastebasket / With this alert intelligent look on my face.”