Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Analysis of "Sonnet" by Bill Knott

Go here for Bill Knott:

Soon, it'll be 3 years since Bill Knott's death.

It's odd to think about being able to e-mail someone and get a response from them.  I'm a nobody who e-mailed him out of the blue and he responded in kind.  But I don't regret trying to connect.  In any case, I'm reminiscing.

"The way the world is not" is an interesting opening line fragment.  The line implies a deficiency.  The world is not enough, but then the enjambment leads to something personal, "Astonished at you" which comes off as a an insult which the speaker doubles down on, "It doesn't blink a leaf / When we step from the house".

I think the usage of "we" changes the tone of the poem from casual insult to something curious -- as the poem has a plan from the comparison.

Leads me to think
That beauty is natural, unremarkable
And not to be spoken of
Except in the course of things
The comparison is in the negation.  Beauty, although natural, is something the world will never acknowledge, never remarks on.  But there's always Helen of Troy (if you think about the past) or any celebrity (if you think about the now).  According, to the speaker though his persona ideal of beauty is never remarked on with these exceptions

The course of singing and worksharing
The course of squeezes and neighbors
The course of you tying back your raving hair to go out
And the course of course of me
This is the integral part of the poem -- the exceptions.  "Singing and worksharing" seems like workshopping -- creating poems, creating art about the other which is still unremarkable.  "squeezes and neighbors,"  something to show what surrounds: people close does not mean the world.  Then the single action of tying a hair back and the repetition of a dumbstruck speaker -- not what the world cares about.

But the speaker is astonished "Astonished at you / The way the world is not".  The comparison being a more personal astonishment rather than a cursory astonishment.  But why explain why the world is not astonished?  To me, it makes the speakers voice more sincere and lonely -- he can't compare to the world and he's just an exception.

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