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The Belly Dance (undated)

Knight’s essay titled “The Belly Dance” provides insight into why he began writing. Making up poems, as he often termed his creative process, was a way to pull himself together while in solitary confinement and after his release as someone facing personal disjointment

“The Idea of Ancestry,” he writes was a “desperate attempt, and urge, to grasp a sense of my/self, of who I /was/--right then.” Knight argues that this process also creates a poetic authority that “is based upon personal--and sometimes-collective--history as it is revealed by the poet to the Reader or Listener.”

For Knight, “genealogical poetry” involves revisiting the paths one has already walked, re-imagining them, and understanding one’s present situation as part of, not only the result of, their past experiences. Genealogical poetry is therefore a way of mending the self: recalling the memories and histories of the poet and rooting them in the body as a grounding practice.

This essay also highlights Knight’s belief that poems live in community. Grounding practices like genealogical poetry also give the poet the freedom—and authority—to be and to produce art among the people, and in performance “a Leap is made, a Dance begins, the Art happens, A Communication exists between the poet, the poem, and the people.” 

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