Poet Of The Week

Jennifer L. Knox

     April 8–14, 2013

Jennifer L. Knox is the author of three books of poems, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway (2010), Drunk By Noon (2007) and A Gringo Like Me (2005), all available from Bloof books. She received her BA from the University of Iowa and her MFA in poetry writing from New York University. She has taught poetry writing at Hunter College and New York University. Her poems have appeared in the New YorkerAmerican Poetry Review and four times in Best American Poetry—as well as the anthologies Best American Erotic PoemsGreat American Prose Poems: From Poet to Present and Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books. She is at work on her first novel.

Found Poem: Ol’ Dirty Bastard on Visitors

 
People. People when they want to get in
touch with me now. You know bein’

in New York you know I mean every day
somebody’s at my fuckin’ house you know

what I’m sayin’? I live with my Momma and
shit you know? Momma she ain’t got no

privacy. Every day it’s her cousin
over there spendin’ the night or some shit.

*

I’m here now
[LA].

You got to travel three thousand fuckin’ miles to see
me you know and they still

comin’. Ain’t that some shit?
They still comin’ but they got to go

the fuck home. I’m a do it like Jim Jones
did. I’m a get all of them to come and visit me

and they gonna get a one-way ticket
you know what I’m sayin’?

 
–From A Gringo Like Me, Bloof Books, 2007.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I’ve been loving on ODB a long time. He was like the Wild Man in the Mardi Gras Indian pantheon, the trickster, the destroyer, etc. That line, “I don’t have a problem with you fucking me, but I have a little problem with you not fucking me.” Or that clip from TRL where Brittany Spears and all these other teeny bopper stars are telling Carson Daly how they give back to their communities, and Carson asks ODB, “Dirty, how do you give back to your community?” and Dirty just waves him off, “Oh no, man. I’m not gonna be doing that.” After Wu-Tang lost the Grammy, he stormed the stage and jacked the mic and said, “Wu-Tang is for the children!” I could go on, but I’d never convey what he did and what he was. When you’re watching him, it’s like you’re staring into something primeval, and volcanic, and sly.

So I found the text in a little sidebar in the celebrity section of the Daily News or the Post, back in about 2000. “Old Dirty Bastard on Visitors” was the little headline. It was his bizarre version of a short celebrity interview. It’s actually intimate—he talks about his mother. I loved the time gaps in it, the repetition, and the admission: he was overwhelmed. A motherfucking force of nature, overwhelmed by other people’s needs.

But as a poem, I didn’t know how to shape it. I was in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at NYU at the time, so I took it into my craft class with Tom Sleigh who had assigned us to bring in a poem that we had been unable to finish. I was in the class with poet Greg Pardlo who suggested couplets, as couplets show the self’s interaction with the other. Bingo!

What are you working on right now?

A novel.

What’s a good day for you?

When I get some writing done.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

Fourteen years. Kensington for 2+ years, Greenpoint & Williamsburg before that. I love everything about Brooklyn except my downstairs neighbors.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

Riding bikes with a buddy down to Coney Island, having a beer at Ruby’s on the boardwalk.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop at the Brooklyn Flea.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I have to write at home because I talk to myself. There are so many wonderful places to read in Brooklyn. This borough must have more venues to read poems per capita than any other area on the planet. Seriously.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

Coney Island, Shenanigans, Prospect Park.

Last awesome book(s) you read?

Selected Stories of Alice Munro.