Before We Were

Originally Published on In Want of Jasmine 22 October, 2017

Before We Were

Poem by Knight Quinn. Photo by Jess June


the devil, diligent

the devil, diligent
-by Knight Quinn
Photography: Within Tower by fibreciment

within_tower_by_fibrecimentSpiral d(own,
you)? Dig
in, or claw up, you
taking my dusty h(and
in the other,
a shovel,
blisters cracking
along the heart-line,
the hickory handle

The gods whisp(
er no),
as do-
es the devil, diligent
in his wild(er-
ness, with kindly)eyes that
tell you that wisdom and
angels wait for you out
past his hori-

Mini-Interview at The Art Shore

Q&A: Brian Quinn

How do you feel about solitary vs. collaborative writing?

Many of my poems are conversations, having multiple voices throughout, which require digging deep or stretching out beyond what is comfortable to gain some understanding of those voices, but there is still a familiarity to all of them. I recently began a collaborative exploration with another poet, and I am excited to see some of those voices come from someplace other than my own head, to have something unfamiliar, something almost alien entwined in my words.

What does the term “poetic process” mean to you?

Writing is tearing down the walls that allow me to move among civilized society so that I may stare into the abyss that Nietzsche warned us about. Editing is rebuilding those walls. The poetic process, then, is the repeated cycle of internal destruction and creation. This, I think, is why poets sometimes need to set aside writing for a while, and why their poetry can be drastically different from cycle to cycle.

Do you feel it still is (or ever has) been important to memorize poems?

I can barely remember my own cell number. I am notorious for my poor memory. I failed to memorize Longfellow’s Evangeline and the Middle English Prologue of the Canterbury Tales when I was in middle school. (Why I have held onto that for 30 years is the answer to a completely different question.)

I do, though, have the Best of Peter, Paul and Mary committed to memory, as well as every song from the Freedom Rock album. I do acknowledge that I did not really answer this question.

Do you ever get sick of poetry?

No. Never. Not that I would admit, even to myself. What I will admit to is that I do get tired of some of the trappings of poetry. There is the stigma of self-publishing vs. submission (double entendre intended) to the gate-keepers, the publishers, the organizers of chap-book prizes. One of the strangest encounters I’ve had was when a veteran poet, learning that I had a book published, suddenly took note of my existence and said to me, “Oh, you’re a real poet!” What the hell is a “real poet”? But then, having had a book published, I begrudgingly admit to feeling legitimized, feeling that I am a real poet compared to my pre-published self, that somehow I’ve arrived. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Do you have any advice to veterans of poetry?

Read Teen Angst: A Celebration of Really Bad Poetry.  Remember that every poet wrote like that when they first began writing. Read it, squirm as you recall your own verse when you were a teen. Embrace it.

In your mind, are technology and poetry in bed together or still in an awkward flirting phase?

Poetry is, in many ways, anti-tech in an age that forgets that an ink pen was once highly advanced (you mean, the ink is IN the pen?). Technology helps to access, save or present poetry, but until you can tear down those civilizing walls with a laptop, exploring the abyssal well of creativity will continue to be a lonely and primal business.

Who are five poets, local and non local, dead or alive, that you admire?

William Blake. My first love affair with poetry. Cliché, I know.

Timothy Kloss, MC at Poets Monday, the longest running open mic poetry set in Milwaukee. He is open and inviting in ways that are reminiscent of a Buddhist monk. He listens, enrapt, to the most angsty of poets, losing himself in forced rhymes, horrendously abstract love poems or terrible cliches. Whenever I do get sick of poetry (do not take that as admission that I do!), I go to Poets Monday and just watch Tim listen to other poets.

E.E. Cummings, who stared into the abyss and wrote what he saw. I hated his work when I was young. When I am experiencing writer’s block, I read Cummings to help shatter walls.

Jesse Ball. While a poet, he is mostly a novel writer. His prose is more poetic than my poems will ever be.

I discovered Brenda Shaughnessy quite by accident when I first returned to poetry (I took a 20 year haitus) and was exploring contemporary poets. I simply love her. Here is why:

A Poet’s Poem


If it takes me all day,
I will get the word freshened out of this poem.

I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second,
and now it won’t come out.

It’s stuck. I’m so frustrated,
so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow

and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked
a cigarette.

Finally I reached up and broke a big, clear spike
off the roof with my bare hand.

And used it to write a word in the snow.
I wrote the word snow.

I can’t stand myself

Chronicle of the Stewards of the Night Carnival

Once, there was a Queen. She had, as part of her court, three Stewards. Their role was to serve the Queen. Their failure was that they obeyed her instead.
                                                                                   -From the Hidden Lore of the Stewards.

I am of the Stewards. We live within the bowels of the Floating City, amidst the cogs and mechanistics and coloured steam, under roots and fountains and foundations. There are three of us, keeping maintenance under your feet.

Where our cousins, the Norns, weave the threads of lives, of individual pasts, presents and futures, we are concerned with the relationships surrounding those threads, the dynamics of a new thread when two are entwined into one, or when one is split into two.

Either maintains all things adjacent and on all horizons: the above and the below, the left and the right, the in-front-of and the behind.

Therefore tends to the before and the after. He is never seen, having always just departed or about to arrive. His is the magic of Hello. And of Goodbye.

I am Between, and I tend to the Shrine of Between.

The Floating City would not make sense were it not for the Lost Continent: it is floating, and that very relationship is what the Stewards maintain. The aboveness. The distant long-ago Goodbye that precipitated the City’s departure and the annual Hello of the Carnival. And the space between: there is a Cord, invisible, that connects the City to the Continent, and it is only through this Cord that the City floats.

These relationships are represented, and therefore observed, healed or broken as needed, through Runes. At their core, the Stewards are runecarvers, using these sigils to draw out the dynamic of relation and tend to those relations.

The clock-work makers in the Menagerie District call upon Therefore to say Goodbye to their creations, for it is the magic of goodbye that gives them flight. The Oracles of the Alchemists District refuse to acknowledge his existence.

Either works closely with those in the Foundry District, the bells and horizons having so much in common.

I stay near the Shrine of Between, carving runes for those who wish to understand how their lives relate to the things in their lives. Except…it is the time of the carnival, and I leave the Shrine to attend the Lost Continent: to check on the Cord, and to see what lies between trees whose roots I have never been under.

A fragment of Lore kept safe by the Stewards, who blame themselves.

From a fragment of Lore entitled: Why the Oracles Deny the Existence of the Stewards(who still blame themselves).

Fragment from The Queen’s Letters, kept by the Stewards(who have always blamed themselves).


Originally Published in The Compendium: Chronicles of the Floating City and the Night Carnival


-by Knight Quinn
Originally Published in Silvae Magazine Issue #3

I miss walls
if only for the secret spaces
behind them, giving
sneak and

when doors and foyers just won’t
do. The slated

leeches light from
chandelieríd interior into
this narrow-way,
this evasion of thoroughfares.

No room to dance but
rather to creep along, along,
to peer out
away from intimacy.

Along those lamp-lit hallways
that the ghosts travel,
how can I breathe?
Who do I talk to when I

find myself on the
other side of the room?

Paradise Forgotten

Paradise Forgotten
by Knight Quinn

you’re not
(you live,
my heart)

proximity (is?to?)
these fingernails and
t)highs a lust:so retracted
i(‘ll be)

in eyes
cateract’d to un-
seeing you:blind i(‘ll

so to hear
your song or cry or
moan in silenc(ing
ticks of seconds and
tocks of miles):in
deafness i(‘ll be)

in(haling) you(r)
(in)sobriety across
chasms:anosmic i(‘ll be)

leaving tongues as lust’s last

Eve, of the Harsher Parts of Dawn

Eve, of the Harsher Parts of Dawn
-by Knight Quinn
Art: Ipocondrie
by Marcela Bolivar


you are the
only deadly
thing above
(me killing)

pressing me
to juiced pressings of
i/you, body

impressing we
the tall grass.

one, then two sets
of footprints heading to,
but only
one body shaped-impression
of(you in)me.

(the t)all grass tells
the b(l)ind sun of my arching
back, the lying
leaves of your arms around me.

we ask the bees and
the birds about the
bees and(t)each the world
how to populate,
so (l)earning how to die.