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About this poet

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.


Bibliography

Sex & Love & (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
Elegy Owed (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007)
Insomnia Diary (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004)
Animal Soul (Invisible Cities Press, 2001)
Plus Shipping (BOA Editions, 1998)
The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995)

Poem ending with a murder/suicide

It’s interesting to me there’s a minimum
but no maximum wage. One without the other
seems like pants without legs or love
without someone to love. So what
are the groups? People
who want no minimum or maximum wage;
people who want a minimum
but no maximum wage; people
who want a minimum
and maximum wage; and people
who want to eat. A minimum wage
of twenty bucks an hour
is roughly eight hundred a week,
or forty grand a year,
or 1.6 million in a life. There’s
your maximum wage—1.6 million a year.
If you earn in a year
what I earn my entire life,
you deserve the right
to be happy about it
in a gated community
where you don’t have to be ashamed
of the dance of your joy.
I deserve the right
to put heirloom tomatoes
in the salad now and then.
Such as when my kid
got her cast off
and her hand looked fine,
like it intended to go on waving
at moonlight and birds.
And I never thought about it
but slipped the insurance card
out of my wallet and slid it over.
And the car started
the first time
for the drive home
to our little bungalow
that needs a new paint job,
but that’ll happen this summer,
right before we go to a lake
for a few days and I open a beer
one night and think, I have a place
in whatever this is.
Then listen to the stars
saying nothing in peace,
though what passes for peace
is a mystery to me,
not unlike who’s behind
the universe or why so many people
in unions voted for people
who wanted to kill unions, but we did
and they died, unions died.
Now where on earth
am I supposed to send the flowers?

Copyright © 2017 Bob Hicok. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Bob Hicok. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok was born in 1960. His poetry collection This Clumsy Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007) was awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. 

by this poet

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

A little bit of hammering
goes a long way toward making
the kind of noise I want my heart
to look up to—or have you ever
gone into a woods and applauded the light
that fights its way to the ground,
and the shadows, and the explosions
of feathers where blue jays
have been

2
poem

If you think of humans as rare
as snowflakes, your world
is constantly melting.

If you think of humans as essential
to keeping dogs happy,
someone will always want
to buy you a beer.
 

2