Hicok, Bob 1960-
HICOK, Bob 1960-
PERSONAL: Born 1960.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Western Michigan University, 1903 West Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5433. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Poet. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, visiting instructor in English, 2002—. Automotive die designer and computer systems administrator in Ann Arbor, MI.
AWARDS, HONORS: Notable Book of the Year award, American Library Association, and Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin, 1995, both for The Legend of Light; National Endowment for the Arts fellow, 1999; two Pushcart Prizes; National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry nomination, 2002, for Animal Soul.
Bearing Witness, Ridgeway Press, 1991.
The Legend of Light ("Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry" series), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1995.
Plus Shipping ("American Poets Continuum" series), BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1998.
Animal Soul ("Contemporary Classics Poetry" series), Invisible Cities Press (Montpelier, VT), 2001.
Contributor of poems to periodicals, including New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Iowa Review, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. Work represented in annual volumes of Best American Poetry.
SIDELIGHTS: Bob Hicok is a Michigan-based, prizewinning poet whose collection The Legend of Light was awarded the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. In reviewing the collection in American Book Review, Al Maginnes noted that these poems "concern themselves less with description than with the poet's reactions to the things this world places before him. . . . Hicok is an ambitious poet."
The first poem, "Killing," is about a boy who clubs insects and frogs and who wishes he had a real weapon so that he could go after bigger game, and of his adult resistance to killing any living thing after seeing his own violence reflected in the face of another person. Other poems are observations of violence, such as in "Waiting," wherein a child is being beaten by his father in a car outside a laundry, and the observer does nothing, but merely thinks someone should. In this poem, Hicok reminds us that our failure to act can be as damnable as the most evil of our own deeds. Insanity, incarceration, sexual awakening, persecution, and AIDS are other issues central to his poems. In "530 Lakewood" the poet visits a house where his family had lived and which is now adorned with a swastika. He remembers his mother watching him walk away from the house and her own inevitable leaving. Maginnes, who called this entry "stunning," said that "the mother cannot remain in place any more than the speaker of the poem can." Maginnes said that he was "most drawn" to this collection "in these moments, small and keenly observed, yet cognizant of the larger implications of all that our lives amount to."
Other poems in The Legend of Light, portray a doctor covered with blood, a group of foundry workers exchanging small talk, a class of Montessori students discussing an eight-year-old rapist, and an old man approaching death. Elizabeth Gaffney wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Hicok's talents fall "somewhere between those of the surgeon and the gods of the foundry and convalescent home: seam-lessly, miraculously, his judicious eye imbues even the dreadful with beauty and meaning." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the volume a "collection of accomplished, un-self-conscious work." Choice reviewer W. V. Davis said Hicok's poems "add up to more than a sum of their parts. . . . Several of these poems will long burn in memory."
Plus Shipping contains poems that reflect Hicok's understanding of the working man, the man who is down on his luck, and the man who is addicted or oppressed. The title poem reflects his outrage at the exploitation of Native-American culture, and in "Watching Welles" he is disheartened by the physical and professional decline of the great actor/director. A Kirkus Reviews contributor, comparing Hicok's voice to that of Raymond Carver, said that "Hicok's strength is in his portraiture (a mugging victim, a young prostitute, a snake-handler) and in his at times unsparing view of family."
In reviewing Animal Soul for Boston Review online, Ethan Paquin noted that Hicok "is armed with a full quiver. Anyone unfortunate enough to fall within his sightlines will bear the brunt of a humorous yet insistent and incisive probing of USA, c. 2001." In this collection, Hicok targets the banality of contemporary culture, and his subjects range from mad cow disease to junk food. Paquin also noted that the small publisher, Invisible Cities Press, produced Animal Soul with a heavy cover, contemporary fonts, and luxurious paper, resulting in what Paquin called "a triumph of startling vision."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, June, 1996, Al Maginnes, review of The Legend of Light, p. 21.
Choice, May, 1996, W. V. Davis, review of The Legend of Light, p. 1478.
Kirkus Reviews, November, 1998, review of Plus Shipping, p. 1562.
New York Times Book Review, January 21, 1996, Elizabeth Gaffney, review of The Legend of Light, p. 21.
Poetry, March, 1997, Leslie Ullman, review of The Legend of Light, p. 345.
Publishers Weekly, November 27, 1995, review of The Legend of Light, p. 67.
Boston Review Web site,http://bostonreview.mit.edu/ (July 29, 2002), Ethan Paquin, review of Animal Soul.*