Home improvement in memoriam
by Bob Hicok
Two poets died this past month
I knew in person a little and a lot
by what they wrote about forests and saints.
Their deaths got me over the hump
of swapping out the hollow plastic doors
in my house for solid oak, which I wanted to do
for years but only now does the genuine
shine as worth whatever trouble it takes
to match the old hinge locations to the new doors.
I've done one, and for days as I glide
through the house, I'm pulled to the bedroom
to touch the revelations of the grain,
or I'll be out counting falling leaves
for the annual inventory or riding on a deer
across the field when I think of the door
and become convinced that someone--not me--
will live forever or at least
have their growth penciled onto that door jamb
and come back before they die to kiss
the stages of reaching their life went through,
long after I'm gone and no one knows
all the places I've buried dead cats
around this yard, not just because I love animals
and digging holes, but those are two reasons
to do a lot of things: feed the birds
and elephants if ever they arrive, and move dirt
from one hiding place to another,
to honor the spirit of the unsettled earth.
by Bob Hicok
is a system of posture for wood.
A way of not falling down
for twigs that happens
to benefit birds. I don't know.
I'm staring at a tree,
at yellow leaves
threshed by wind and want you
reading this to be staring
at the same tree. I could
cut it down and laminate it
or ask you to live with me
on the stairs with the window
keeping an eye on the maple
but I think your real life
would miss you. The story
here is that all morning
I've thought of the statement
that art is about loneliness
while watching golden leaves
By ones or in bunches
they tumble and hang
for a moment like a dress
in the dryer.
At the laundromat
you've seen the arms
thrown out to catch the shirt
flying the other way.
Just as you've stood
at the bottom of a gray sky
in a pile of leaves
trying to lick them
back into place.
Bob Hicok was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan, in 1960 and worked for many years as an automotive die designer and a computer system administrator. He began teaching in 2002 and received an MFA from Vermont College in 2004.
His first book of poetry, The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), received the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. His other poetry collections include Animal Soul (Invisible Cities Press, 2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), winner of the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress; and Sex & Love & (Copper Canyon Press, 2016).
Hicok writes poems that value speech and storytelling, that revel in the material offered by pop culture, and that deny categories such as “academic” or “narrative.” In an interview in Gulf Coast, he elaborates, “Being open to all kinds of poems allows for a fuller range of expression and helps the poet write out of different kinds of moods and sensibilities.”
As Elizabeth Gaffney notes in the New York Times Book Review: “Each of Mr. Hicok’s poems is marked by the exalted moderation of his voice—erudition without pretension, wisdom without pontification, honesty devoid of confessional melodrama. . . . His judicious eye imbues even the dreadful with beauty and meaning.”
Hicok is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts, and his poetry has been awarded three Pushcart Prizes and selected for inclusion in five volumes of Best American Poetry. He currently teaches at Purdue University.
...for the enjoyment
and passion of words,
thoughts, visuals and disciplines. Page update May 26 2018
Bob Hicok's ninth collection, Hold, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2018.
"Bob Hicok is that rarity, a cheerful contemporary poet--if not completely happy, still hopeful and celebrative." --Los Angeles Review of Books
"Yet ultimately the most potent ingredient in virtually every one of Bob Hicok's compact, well-turned poems is a laughter as old as humanity itself, a sweet wagger y that suggests there's almost no problem that can't be solved by this poet's gentle humor." --The New York Times Book Review
Bob Hicok's tenth collection of poetry, Hold, moves nimbly between childlike revelry and serious introspection. While confronting the rampant hypocrisies of the American collective unconscious, Hicok is guided by his deep and tender sense of whimsy and humility. Pointing to the natural world as a mirror through which to rediscover human beauty, he pauses to unapologetically celebrate the wonder of living at all.
From "About the size of it":
. . . my breath
shuttling in and out, as if it can' t decide
between stay and go, the little bird
long gone by the time I realize
the sun has set and it will soon feel
like my father was never here, which is no big deal
compared to the erasures the world endures
and offers every day, except this one is mine
A two time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and recipient of the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, he’s also been awarded a Guggenheim and two NEA Fellowships.