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Janet Hamill reads from Knock

I read Knock by Janet Hamill in one sitting; it took me by surprise and I just went with it remembering my youth and traveling when life spread out before me with decades ahead. I got in touch with Janet Hamill and asked if I could record her reading. She lives fifty miles north of NYC in Orange County, and told me that she was going to be in NYC in November for a reading—Why didn’t we get together then? But there is no time like the present, I’m beginning to find so I suggested I’d get on the bus and come up. There was a pleasant urgency about it.

The bus ride through the autumn countryside was beautiful and worth it so I was feeling good when Janet picked me up in Warwick and drove us to the Seligmann Center, which had been the home of the surrealist painter, Kurt Seligmann and his wife Arlette. Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Peggy Guggenheim, and Meyer Schapiro were guests here, and it’s easy to feel their presence when you walk along paths into the swampy woods and see the fields, auras of golden rod, the perfect setting for Janet, a surrealist too, to talk about her book and read from it.

I recorded Janet for about an hour, much longer than I usually do, but as she talked about her travels and her poems, I thought I’d go with the flow. We were on the quiet second floor of the center and the sun came shining through. Knock is written in pantoums, a poetic form from Malaysia that Baudelaire used. A pantoum repeats itself, the same words, but with variations that can change depending on where they are placed, the syntax of discipline with chance. Patti Smith says that “Knock is intensely visual and invigorating. The interwoven shifts of its seductive language tenders a third dimensional reading experience.” Bob Holman, the poet, thinks that Knock is a “new form, as yet unnamed, hypnotic, beguiling, gestural—as close to ritual as a poem text can be.”

What was it Jesus said? “Knock and it will be opened. Seek and you will find.” That is exactly what Knock is about. Knowing. Getting to know. Here is Janet Hamill.



















Knock is published by Spuyten Duyvil. Check them out here:


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