Influence Week Continues: "My prom dress died its death at Bill Knott's Academic office address"

by on Jul.25, 2011

[This is a guest post by Lindsay Herko, grad student in the Notre Dame creative writing program.]

Dear venerable hot-blog who name-plays on Uruguay,
Admittedly, six autumns after junior prom, my orphaned prom dress made its way anonymously, to poet Bill Knott, via the U.S. postal service.
The dress was a raspberry “event” made out of iridescent sheaths that numbed the idea of any legs existing beneath. The dress was the date of a bisexual bluesman who attended another high school and liked Rush, but this like was okay because again, he attended another high school. Historically important too – said date’s mother was in the business of painting pastel pictures of NYPD Blue excommunicant David Caruso, for online fan communities who created new lives for themselves post-divorce, rabidly congregating on GeoCities.
The dress did its job – appearing accidentally in bathrooms besides girls dressed in amphibian colored columns fisting toilet paper under their dresses, the dress had its picture taken besides the prom commerative pillar to appease two sets of Floridian grandparents and the dress was most successful lighting up the dark, dinky limo, at a time when late night was qualifid by the a one am ride home from the after-event at the Princess restaurant, that smelled like avocados.
This above is the composite of the dress.
For six seasons it bled out its history remaining in a closet that was continuously depopulated of my clothes, as I tore out old sweaters and shoes with watermarks that looked like smirks on their leather, to populate my weekdays at college.
It was in an electric tizzy, during this season six, that I made my consumate yet jolt-speed decision to grab the dress by the ghost of my old throat and mail it to Bill Knott.
I had recently received a package from Canada from an internet friend named Charlie who lived in my namesake town of Lindsay, Ontario which contained a green vest he supposedly wore to his prom in the 1970’s. Charlie and I had been sending back and forth, whip-strikes and gnat-bites of poetry for the past five years in letter form. Our arts friendship had picked me up from discarding writing all together and had recently been remodeled into sending packages full of odds and sods we each felt the other would be amused by.
Charlie wanted me to wear his old prom vest to readings and events, representing our friendship and the ability to dilly-daddle in other people’s times and best of all – to be all things – both boy and girl. The magic thing was, I highly doubted this was Charlie’s real prom tuxedo vest. The vest was too tight to fit my small apple shaped frame and Charlie had for many years been a globular man, falling in his high school era super-8 recorded magic shows and landing like a plumped pillow. The gift of Charlie’s faux prom vest touched my heart – as i spent so many moments speculating what would stir him to recreate a history and go on a plodding journey, maybe featuring many Canadian thrift stores, to procure such a soap green boy’s formal vest for me – a person he solely relied on words to “know”.
Charlie came into my life aroud the time i was introduced to the poetry of Bill Knott and both have been key figures in my treehouse of literature. Sending my prom dress to Bill Knott started as an exercise in “what the fuckery”towards someone I had heard was just as likely to tell my befriending attempts to “fuck off” At least from my high school literature teacher I had heard a rumor he regularly ducked in doors shyly to avoid speaking to Carolyn Kizer, when that didn’t sound so bad, stumbling meager memories of “Go to Hell” stories were brought to lip.
With the dress, I hope the wtf’s would instead transcend into recipient’s wonder.
I believe in creating experiences for others they would never expect or create for themselves.
I sent my prom dress to Bill Knot, because in the chase to get to know my poetry fave over the years i had often failed, I sent the dress on the total cliff of a “because I could”.
The dress was sent to his office at Emerson College and I do not know whether or not he received it. But I felt waves of joy pondering the reaction to such a package-opening. The dress was sent from the postal station at a lotto store that was siamese-stitched to “pornarium” and I felt more exhilarantly alive trying to stuff its slipperiness into the sack-like priority mailer than any of the men next door could have felt hand selecting videos to watch in the private viewing boothes. My innocent joy vacuumed the heart of that neighboring naughty goods store and perhaps that sort of thing is enough to indulge in sending strange objects to poets you “fan”, who will never usually find out you’re the one who’s sent them.
Bill Knott may never know he is part of a special chain in the magnificent friendship of Charlie and Lindsay!For I have Charlie’s prom appareal and now Bill has mine or maybe for a minute he had mine, never knowing how special such a send was, before he discarded it. Charlie and I, we have flung our pasts far, into a foreigner’s future!

Now, I take a second to ponder…
We may not ever meet our favorite writers. I have loved Dylan Thomas and Lucy Maud Montgomery too, for separate and more social reasons, but the closest I will ever get to them is imagining after their deaths, they remarried to one another in outer space and are somewhere floating around in a lantern shaped star, being my literary parental guardians. With the living writers we love and feel through text we somehow owe our commitments to, sending a prom dress to a poet is like returning an opaque piece of life riddled with our histories! The fabric of my dress cannot speak of the creation of the life I gave it and therefore becomes a reverse of Bill Knott’s poetry not being able to tell me about the kitchens, arrogances, gardens or gases, he’s passed through while creating.
formula: words carrying the momentum of their creation, tho’ that creation remains under cover to the reader can only be repaid by anonymous objects jettisoned with the momentum of the reader’s live creations= Lindsay’s highest attempt at tribute.
There were secondary acts of tributes, of course, offered in earlier times, when Knott first became a figure in my life.
In the dignity-reducing environment of high school, where the constant shiny appearance of human handprints on cafeteria walls competed with this discomfort felt from constantly hearing the rumor my math teacher drank to block the fallout from an affair with a student who said she had too big a labia, I attended R. Blake’s afterschool poetry club.
It was the beginning of my friendship with Charlie, when I was green and didn’t even know his last name of Fallis wasn’t pronouced “phallus” and I had been trotting out poetry as a lifestyle. Unfortunately my locality was oblivious to all arts that weren’t sold at their obsession – the Apple Fest, so I needed something like poetry club to be my jockstrap. I also felt poetry club may need me because someone named “Charlie Phallus” mentored as much – by the way, try saying “Phallus”as part of explaining your attendance, to a tired male teacher, who has just dealt with four female poe-club attendees “weep feasting”!
Poetry club was mostly a sorrow round or disaster. A girl who’s last name was a type of bird mixed with a type of sound a dog makes, dominated the event and though I thought I belonged, there I was too humble to ever raise my hand to read before she tsunamied the audience with six sonnets about burning strawberry incense while taking a shower, the last sonnet including the entrance of God to put out the flame in her bathroom, while breaking a window.
For afterschool poetry club i continuously put my intestines off track. Afraid of public bathrooms and the possibility of being watched, I extended my ruthless excretory shutdown for ten hour days on club afternoons. The sense of defeat always rising when I left the club without reading and saw the school custodian with the cleft palette, who quacked like a duck, pee on the fence next to the school as i started the long walk home, where each step challanged my innards.
Discovering kinship with Knott made this whole afterschool horror-hoeing worth it. R. Blake, a poetry lover, and perhaps sad he couldn’t “double score” receiving the first name William from his folks, at least had a poetry themed job at Boa Editions before turning to teaching high school. To prove his history he kept dusted up Boa discards on his classroom’s shelves. A life can change in a day, in the divide of having Kim Addonizio’s Jimmy and Rita bestowed before you or instead being a different animal and receiving Bill Knott’s The Quicken Tree.
While the strawberry incense poet studied more obvious quandries of desire through Jimmy and Rita, often using the book to look more sexually aware to various male students in Advanced American history, I carried Bill Knott as the poet I was patron of, under my skin.
The Quicken Tree made me feel i was voyeur to someone else’s psycho-geographic grid. Piece For X, spoke to all the other selves I felt were layered Hellinsitic city-style within my soul. Bill Knott felt intrinsic and eternal and earned my silent friendship despite myself never meeting a copy of The Naomi Poems, I’d forgo the sanctuary of taking a shit at home, just to hear what may be in those coveted pages in the “gossip about published people” half an hour at the afterschool poetry club.
Dear Bill Knott within my whispering to Montevidayo,
Carrying my decided patronage of you, wherever I could put it – in a bone in my shoulder, in a shape of a sudden goiter, under the thin skin on my scalp, I was affirmed my idea of a larger universe was right, that writing was allowed to circuit my soul and days were good despite having to confront hideous portions – like peering into the pots in the girls’ room, seeing how the dropped-in cigarettes of the incense poet and dozens of teen non-poets, made the water smell strange like pretzels and turned the toilet bottoms a confusing gold (with greater clarity of vocation, there was a bravery to at least look into the public bathrooms, as well as jumps to get over multitudes of other neurosis).
Life is pure and good and I now know writing this, the person who dated my dress at the prom, hardly knew my mental universe, it was more apt I sent the dress to you, as you Bill Knott, were as primal to my high school experience as preparing for prom is to others. And because when I was a child I never foresaw the “what the fuck” of counting an American poet as personal carry-on, you deserve the hiccup of the spoof.

Thanks Montevidayo, for listing my confession and pondering.
* failed attempts to commune with Knott high school era also included calling all the William Knotts in the online version of the Massachussets white pages and speaking to one man who said he was the poet but then regressed from that identity when i expressed admiration.
Lindsay Herko, limp MFA student but non-limp master of free-falling arts.

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Joyelle McSweeney

    This is so beautiful and strange, like a clinging synthetic fabric, it makes the body produce new fluids. Are you out there, Knotts?