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Edits of “Born of a Woman,” 1979

In the preface to his book Born of a Woman, Knight describes
how reading his poems across the country introduced him to new people and experiences, and specifically how this exposure helped him better understand and modify his language. In the piece, Knight writes about how his poems had phrases that would occasionally be flagged by people at readings for not being as inclusive as they could be. Instead of being frustrated, Knight talks about how these interactions prompted him to change his poems, not so they would not offend audiences, but instead welcome as many people as possible.

This is a fascinating artifact because it gives very specific, very helpful insight into how Knight viewed language and, more importantly, what he thought the role of poetry was. For Knight, poetry was a means of connecting; it was an avenue for personal expression, and that expression was a way to show people they were not alone. To see how he actively worked to make his poetry more welcoming to everyone is wonderful.

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