poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

poetic forms

About this poet

Mary Hickman was born in Nampa, Idaho, in 1979, and grew up in China and Taiwan. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow.

Hickman is the author of Rayfish, forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2017 and winner of the 2016 James Laughlin Award, and This Is the Homeland (Ahsahta Press, 2015). About her winning book, Laughlin Award judge Carmen Giménez Smith writes: “Each poem in Mary Hickman's Rayfish is a scrupulous consideration of how art disturbs, distorts, informs, and shapes our history of engagement with the artificial world. Personal, ekphrastic, and essayistic, these poems are also an incisive contemplation on memory-making and that mechanism’s effect on aesthetics.”

A visiting professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Hickman also teaches in the University of Iowa International Writing Program’s Between the Lines exchange program. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Bibliography

Rayfish (Omnidawn, 2017)
This Is the Homeland (Ahsahta Press, 2015)
 

Eva Hesse

I have to be strict with myself. I want to say “fluency” or “ecstatic grammars” but I try not to be swayed by fiberglass, cylindric columns inflating and deflating, iron mesh that trails cords and petals across the floor. Resin, vellum, wax—they are translucent, skin-like. In sunlight, the sculptures warm and glow. They take on the look of light penetrating the thinner parts of our bodies, ears or hands. She conjures life and it is formal. “That’s why I think I might be so good,” she says. “I have no fear. I take risks. I have the most openness about my art. My attitude is most open. It is total freedom and the will to work.” Eva Hesse had a stepmother named Eva Hesse who had a brain tumor two years before Eva. She got out of the hospital two years to the day Eva went in. The same hospital and same doctor. In three years, two people unrelated but with the same name? Well the story goes on. In this work, she ties the frame like a hospital bandage as if someone has broken an arm. A rigid umbilical surrounds the frame. It’s composed of malleable metal. Could it expose a body? We want to know what went wrong, in the cellular, the microscopic parts, in the lipids and tissue. Out of domestic reflexes my body surrounds itself. But the body ultimately stays what it is: combines of organ, bone, tube. It resists all sense. This first sculpture resembles dried intestines pulled through wall. Catgut used to string instruments will last two thousand years and carry a fresher song. It’s very moving, visceral of course, but restrained. As vellum’s dried hide insists that there is time to consider its shape, the shape itself decays. Several of Eva’s sculptures have deteriorated. They are no longer their original selves. They cannot be handled or installed as before. Consider a sculpture that, when first made, is softly draped, understated, organic, erotic, like the meninges, the protective tissue just under the skull, and is now a rigid, tawny heap. Maybe what I really want is a round table discussion about conservation. If you cut out a sizable cube of brain it retains shape, more or less. We see the pattern develop. She only had a few hours left to live. There was so much pressure. The whole brain tipped over and all the intelligence is in the front. I’d like to try a material that will last. So many of Eva’s raw materials are casting materials. But why think about them as casting materials? Imagine, instead, she makes the sculpture directly at the moment from each pliant or resistant shell. Although it’s fragile, all Eva’s work is tactile. The work has momentum. In Vinculum, everything is tenuous, knotted loosely, and can change. And I don’t mind that, within reason. The work holds its tension even as the sculpture flexes, moves, and pours itself back into water. It is a life but of the most bizarre kind. Does it cry? Or grieve? Does it sting? Does it lie? Non-organic, but place your hand upon its hide and feel the waters riot, witness ecstatic grammars, fluent hands and a breaking, strong current and waves.

From Rayfish, published by Omnidawn. Copyright © 2017 by Mary Hickman. Used with permission of the author.

From Rayfish, published by Omnidawn. Copyright © 2017 by Mary Hickman. Used with permission of the author.

Mary Hickman

Mary Hickman

Mary Hickman is the author of Rayfish, winner of the 2016 James Laughlin Award, and This Is the Homeland (Ahsahta Press, 2015).

by this poet

poem

Helen is of course that Helen of Sparta. Helen of Troy. Helena hated of Greece. In a dream or trance she left Troy. She finds herself in Egypt. You must be patient, remembering. You can choose where. We are going to see whatever we haven’t seen and maybe that means traveling down instead of across. Some

poem

Soutine attempts to keep the color of his first carcasses fresh with buckets of blood. The neighbors hate the stench and the flies but he continues to pour blood over the bodies until he is ordered by the police to stop. Only then does he use formaldehyde. He isn’t preserving the flesh, just refreshing it,

poem

Your body in motion calls me to look. You know just how to move. You are determined to move just so. If I could make my image of you do anything, what could I imagine myself becoming? Rather than painting on canvas or sculpting in clay, I am driven to put all these ideas on myself. The artist’s obsession