Ground Work / Casey Knott


poems by

Casey Knott

ISBN: 978-1-59948-701-4, 88 pages, $14

Release Date:  September 5, 2018

Casey Knott received an MFA degree from Minnesota State University. She works in education, mentors students, and helps edit The Wax Paper literary journal. While she has traveled extensively, she remains rooted to the Midwest, where she raises her three children and tends to her urban farm. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals.


Casey Knott’s realm is the territory of Roethke, of Frost: the microcosm of sparrows, yard gnomes, “the thinnest leaf of the maple.” And like those great writers, Knott allows those poems to awake at critical moments into invitations: “think of wind in Venezuela,/ wrapping the skirt of a woman/ planting seeds in her yard.” Knott is a writer of the deeply personal made manifest in the sheer magnitude of the natural world. I recommend you peruse this book on a mountain top while drinking tea, but if no mountain is available, simply enjoy these beautiful poems. –Kyle McCord, author of Magpies in the Valley of Oleanders


Casey Knott knows there is another world inside of this one. Her poems enact those moments when the world discloses itself and, not coincidentally, when some layer of self-protection also comes loose. Breaking, mending, moving on. In the manner of animals and birds. In the manner of earth. There is a magnificent patience behind this work. —Richard Robbins, author of Body Turn to Rain: New and Selected Poems


Ground Work by Casey Knott traces a beautiful path of inquiry into what it means to be alive. It does not pretend to have the answers, but offers a “ticking chest” “to everything named or unnamed / right there in the backyard.” This is the compass, in case we got lost. These poems urge us to connect to ourselves through the observation of the quotidian. Knott looks at “the details / that assume a life” and imbues this life with more meaningful ones. Ground Work allows us to be privy to a conversation with nature that tells us more about ourselves than we realized we did not know. Knott encourages us to not be afraid, and invites us to “Go in now. // Want this.”  — Laura Cesarco Eglin, author of Occasions to Call Miracles Appropriate and Calling Water by Its Name

Fortune Telling


Once, I sat on a cliff over Pecos Valley,
my pockets utterly empty.
The bright immeasurable stars burning holes
in the dark veneer overhead.
Unthinking of distance or the steep drop,
the scorpions under rocks.
As luck would have it, I was me. The closest I have been
to free. I knew nothing about what would pass
but I can see now some decades later,
that moment was a kind of precipice
ushering in this future, as if it spilled
before me somewhere in that sky and all
my life I’ve been reaching to fill the cup.
There it was blooming in me–
a borrowed rock, stars, and lizards–I could taste
a change that would take years to be made, years
to generate this backyard that I stand in with a wind
flexing its endless muscle, pinning me
like some peg on a map.
There is no road back. That night sky
told me gaining footing would always be enough.





The lady driving her car in front
of me rolls her window up to the
wind, checks her tossed hair in
the rear view mirror, adds order
to the world. My window is down,
arm hooked on the door as if to
check the pulse of the road beneath,
leave the mess the wind makes.
I’ve known this wind: weeks ago it was
at my back, lifting. Now it claps
at my face for recognition.
I trace its source, come up empty,
think of wind in Venezuela,
wrapping the skirt of a woman
planting seeds in her yard tight
around her thighs and calming,
or pushing a pocketbook down
the street in India, all those eyes
watching it go. I breathe in hard,
hoping for a scent of China, the air
of New Zealand, the Philippines,
plead for the woman driving in front
to roll down her window, forget herself,
welcome all things with the wind,
swallow rock dust, water, longing.



First Impressions


Why does a butterfly lie low on a rock
at the edge of a gravel parking lot
not for minutes, but hours? What about
a man, what possesses him to wear
a straw hat in wind on a bike with a flag
that spells out peace, love, anarchy?
Maybe he woke one morning with a mind
for action, decided to wave
his life above his head. See him now,
unsure of himself for years and then
that morning in the shower, the idea
coming to him like a scent, how he
stood there and let the drunken water
wash over him. Years from now he’ll be
walking, laugh with the memory of that day.
There he’ll be in a town laughing,
others will hear him and look, and what
will they think of him, a man with an unkempt
garden upstairs, a man in love, a bit of both?
They won’t know how he laughs
at the mind, what it remembers.

We don’t know what anyone’s thinking,
all those tracks in the mind. There are
days we just need to start something, speak
words we’ve never mouthed before, sit
in a bar at two in the afternoon – elbows
on an oak slab, a tall one in hand – just me
and a cowboy sipping wine. I came
because I’ve never known a bar at this time
alone, came to drink in a place
where all that thinking goes down, who would know
this? It echoes like a coffin in here. I feel all those
ideas left behind as loose shirts.

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