One quirk of his [Bill Knott's], which I saw several times, was what I called his "defensive rudeness." For example, someone would approach him and say something like, "I loved your book." And Bill would say, "Then you must have terrible taste in poetry." And turn on his heel, and walk away. In another situation, he replied to the same kind of comment with, "Uh, I'm not from around here, umm, umm, I don't know the streets," and turned away. Needless to say, the people on the other end of this kind of exchange looked as if they were slapped in the face. I remember berating him about this, a few times, and his response was a shrug. He simply did not know how to respond to anything positive.
In June 2015, Robert Fanning; Leigh Jajuga, a friend of Bill's and an assistant in his last years; Star Black, the poet and photographer, and a friend of Bill's; and I, buried Bill's ashes in Carson City, MI, his hometown. Robert had a small stone made. It says: "William Knott 1940-2014 / I Am Flying into Myself." The line is from a poem called "Death" in his first book:
Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.
—Tom Lux, "Bill Knott: Can My Voice Save My Throat," Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet (Tiger Bark Press, 2017), edited by Steven Huff.
[Note: The poet Tom Lux passed away shortly after he edited Bill Knott's posthumous selected poems, I Am Flying Into Myself (FSG, 2017).]