John Knight (a.k.a. John W. Knight; John William Knight) was born on 2 Dec 1935 in Bendigo, Victoria to an evangelist preacher and his New Zealand born wife. After the war, in 1946 the family moved to Queensland travelling between towns and cities where his father ministered. After two years of high school and a variety of jobs, John taught in primary schools in Queensland and NSW. He also studied Theology at Avondale College. He later transferred to secondary teaching, and after completing a Doctorate in the Sociology of Education and Religion in 1977, John lectured in Teacher Education at the Mt Gravatt College of Advanced Education before moving to the University of Queensland, where he became an Associate Professor.
As well as a number of books on education policy and the sociology of education, John published widely in literary journals and anthologies in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and America. He was long time poetry editor of the journal Social Alternatives and of Scope. His first book of verse, From Derrida to Sara Lee, was published in 1994. That was followed by Extracts from the Jerusalem Archives (Sweetwater Press, 1997); the intense and very personal Letters from the Asylum (Sudden Valley Press, 2009). However, it was haiku that gave John the greatest joy.
John was introduced to haiku in the late 70s after which he sporadically experimented with the form until 1988 when he came under the spell of haiku masters Jack Stamm, Kazuo Sato and Tohta Kaneko who came to Australia for the Brisbane’s Expo 88. In haiku John found a literary form that freed him from the tenets of postmodernist literary criticism and soon he became an accomplished and internationally recognised haijin.
John Knight was an insistent voice behind the formation of the Brisbane-based Paper Wasp haiku group in 1989 assisted by Jack Stamm, an American, long resident in Japan, and the support of Japanese haijin Kazuo Sato. The original objective of the founding members, Jacqui Murray, Ross Clark and John Knight, was to further haiku education in Australia. The group was opened to public membership in 1994 and soon Australia’s most prominent and prolific haijin, Janice M. Bostok, joined the group. The launch of ‘Paper Wasp: a journal of haiku’ followed in 1995 as John being one of the foundation editor. John’s published haiku include Wattle Winds: an Australian haiku sequence (with Clark, Murray and Jack Stamm, Paper Wasp, 1993) and his own collection big man catching a small wave (Post Pressed, 2006), described by fellow poet Jeffrey Harpeng as a “tender collection of graceful haiku ever hopeful in their sadness and their joy”.
John was founder and owner of the small publishing house, Post Pressed since 1995. Although Post Pressed never made money, John nursed it along to give a voice in print to around two dozen Australian and New Zealand haiku poets and academics. He believed that despite the technological development, the well preserved printed word would always stand the test of time.
After retiring John continued to mentor a number of doctoral students at QUT and elsewhere. But by December 2011 he had been rendered too weak by the cancer he had been fighting for almost a decade. John Knight died on 24 Feb 2012 in Brisbane, Queensland. But John will always be remembered for his passion for poetry: “I’ve a peculiar passion for poetry. Not just for reading, for writing it. And for working with others who share the same passion. Poetry readings, workshops, seminars, editing sessions. Yes, there are still people out there who read and write poetry. I publish their work. And some of them are my best friends. I learn from and with them. I love and treasure them and they - I hope -me. I’m alive in ways I can’t otherwise be when I’m with them.” (John Knight, ‘A poetry editor’s passions: (or all he’ll safely admit)’, Social Alternatives 20 (2), May 2001, pp. 11-13).
As a tribute to John Knight’s legacy as poet, writer and haiku mentor in 2013 several Australian and New Zealand haiku writers put together the anthology ‘still heading out’, a unique 78-page collaboration edited by paper wasp members Jacqui Murray and Katherine Samuelowicz.
- From derrida to sara lee / John Knight, Brisbane : Metro Press, 1994
- Extracts from the Jerusalem archives & other poems / John Knight, Mt. Gravatt, Qld.: Sweetwater Press, 1997
- First Australian Haiku Anthology, Janice Bostok and John Bird (Eds.), Jacqui Murry (Print Version Editor), 1999
- bawdy per verse & irreverent - edited by john knight & katherine samuelowicz, illustrations from the figure by brenda lewis. Post Pressed, Flaxton, 1999
- In a heron's eye: haiku from the paper wasp jack stamm haiku award 1999, edited by Jacqui Murray, Janice Bostok, Ross Clark & John Knight, paper wasp 2000
- Boat harbour: the paper wasp jack stamm haiku anthology 2000, edited by Jacqui Murray, Janice Bostok, Ross Clark & John Knight, paper wasp 2001
- Spring dawn: the paper wasp jack stamm haiku anthology 2001, edited by Janice Bostok, Ross Clark, John Knight & Jacqui Murray, paper wasp 2002
- Distant thunder: the paper wasp jack stamm haiku anthology 2002, edited by Janice Bostok, Ross Clark, John Knight & Jacqui Murray, paper wasp 2003
- Late walk: the paper wasp jack stamm haiku anthology 2003, edited by Janice Bostok, Ross Clark, John Knight & Jacqui Murray, paper wasp 2004
- Clear water: the paper wasp jack stamm haiku anthology 2004, edited by Janice Bostok, Ross Clark, John Knight & Jacqui Murray, paper wasp 2005
- Big man catching a small wave: haiku / John Knight, Teneriffe, Qld. : Post Pressed, 2006
- Rusted Hinge: the paper wasp jack stamm haiku anthology 2005, edited by Janice Bostok, Ross Clark, John Knight & Jacqui Murray, paper wasp 2006
- Letters from the asylum / John Knight, Christchurch: Sudden Valley Press, 2009
reading your letter
and morning coffee
warms my hands
three buttons down
of her breasts
from a grey sky into
this red sea
dragging the clouds
and my shadow
(1998 issue of paper wasp: an Australian journal of haiku)
clouds over the moon
wind and owl's shadow
her card in the mail
her nipples hardening
under the soft blouse...
white apple blossom
(1999 issue of paper wasp: an Australian journal of haiku)
in my hand and the curve
of her throat
ah but the scent
(2000 issue of paper wasp: an Australian journal of haiku)
first winter day
summer's black snake
too slow for my axe
(2001 issue of paper wasp: an Australian journal of haiku)
we pass in the corridor
tossing in my sleep
the curlew's cry
from the moor
she looks at me
with real love
after the third glass
our creaking bed-
the next room's lovers
(2002 issue of paper wasp: an Australian journal of haiku)
still tempted by her breasts
the fruit falls unpicked
(2003 issue of paper wasp: an Australian journal of haiku)
Distant ranges . . .
under the bright sky
Old windmill gap-toothed
brushing her hair tonight the moon is almost full
at the airport
wrapped in that last kiss...
the still blue sky
swinging old hips
when she smiles . . .
On my hands now,
and the rain hard
at the door
winter crow calling
harsh wind on the flag
at half mast
(“First Australian Haiku Anthology”, ed. by Janice M Bostok and John Bird, 1999)