poem index


Mary Hickman

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Mary Hickman

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.


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

by this poet


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


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


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