About this poet

In 1960, Bob Hicok was born in Grand Ledge, Michigan. His most recent collection, This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), was awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. His other books are Insomnia Diary (Pitt, 2004), Animal Soul (Invisible Cities Press, 2001),a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Plus Shipping (BOA, 1998), and The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin, 1995), which received the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. A recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, Guggenheim and two NEA Fellowships, his poetry has been selected for inclusion in five volumes of Best American Poetry.

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." As Elizabeth Gaffney wrote for 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 has worked as an automotive die designer and a computer system administrator, and is currently an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Go Greyhound

Bob Hicok
A few hours after Des Moines
the toilet overflowed.
This wasn't the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos
weighed more than I did.
He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
His Electric Ladyland lips
weren't fast enough
and if pitch and melody
are the rudiments of music,
this was just
memory, a body nostalgic
for the touch of adored sound.

Hope's a smaller thing on a bus.

You hope a forgotten smoke consorts
with lint in the pocket of last
resort to be upwind
of the human condition, that the baby
sleeps
and when this never happens,
that she cries 
with the lullaby meter of the sea.

We were swallowed by rhythm.
The ultra blond
who removed her wig and applied 
fresh loops of duct tape
to her skull,
her companion who held a mirror
and popped his dentures
in and out of place,
the boy who cut stuffing
from the seat where his mother
should have been—
there was a little more sleep 
in our thoughts, 
it was easier to yield.

To what, exactly—
the suspicion that what we watch 
watches back,
cornfields that stare at our hands,
downtowns
that hold us in their windows
through the night?

Or faith, strange to feel
in that zoo of manners.

I had drool on my shirt and breath
of the undead, a guy
dropped empty Buds on the floor
like gravity was born
to provide this service,
we were white and black trash
who'd come
in an outhouse on wheels and still

some had grown—
in touching the spirited shirts
on clotheslines,
after watching a sky of starlings
flow like cursive
over wheat—back into creatures 
capable of a wish.

As we entered Arizona
I thought I smelled the ocean,
liked the lie of this
and closed my eyes 
as shadows
puppeted against my lids. 

We brought our failures with us,
their taste, their smell.
But the kid
who threw up in the back
pushed to the window anyway,
opened it 
and let the wind clean his face,
screamed something 
I couldn't make out
but agreed with
in shape, a sound I recognized
as everything I'd come so far
to give away.

From Insomnia Diary by Bob Hicok. Copyright © 2004 by Bob Hicok. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

From Insomnia Diary by Bob Hicok. Copyright © 2004 by Bob Hicok. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok was born in 1960. His most recent collection, This Clumsy

by this poet

poem
At the desk where the boy sat, he sees the Chicago River.
It raises its hand.
It asks if metaphor should burn.
He says fire is the basis for all forms of the mouth.
He asks, why did you fill the boy with your going?
I didn't know a boy had been added to me, the river says.
Would you have given him back if you
poem
A bee in the field. The house on the mountain 
reveals itself to have been there through summer. 
It's not a bee but a horse eating frosted grass 
in the yawn light. Secrets, the anguish of smoke 
above the chimney as it shreds what it's learned 
of fire. The horse has moved, it's not a horse 
but a woman doing
poem
I don't have much time. I'm an important person
to chickadees and mourning doves, whose feeder 
was smashed last night by a raccoon. Soon 
I'll be wielding duct tape, noticing the dew, 
wanting to bathe in it, hoping the awkwardness 
of yesterday (three instances of people talking 
with bear traps for mouths)