Memory as appetite and meal.*

Posted: May 30, 2007 in Poetry Endorsements

Bob Hicock
“This Clumsy Living”

While the title may be a borrowed Rainer Maria Rilke phrase, that is the only thing that could be said to be borrowed in Hicock’s latest book, “This Clumsy living.”

I fell in love with Hicock’s particular way of using language to translate humour and introspection via his 2004 release, “Insomnia Diary” (buy). Ever since, every copy of any journal publishing his work has had my fingerprints on it. And when I saw that he had a new book out, no preview necessary, I went out and bought a copy.

Hicock is one of the few poets who I can read without criticizing. This is a horrible thing for a critic, so thank goodness that’s not where my talents lie. Also thank goodness my talents lie in the reading of this man’s ingenious wordsmithing. And what makes his work stand out so? Well, uncharacteristically, I’ll point you to his poem, “Full Flight,” which starts:

I’m in a plane that will not be flown into a building.

and continues (a little further down),

We are eighteen thousand feet over America.
People are typing at their laps, blowing across the fog of coffee,
sleeping with their heads on windows, on the pattern
of green fields and brown fields, streams and gas stations
and swimming pools, blue dots of aquamarine that suggest
we’ve domesticated the mirage. We had to kill someone,
I believe, when the metal bones burned and the top
fell through the bottom and a cloud made of dust and memos
and skin muscled across Manhattan.

Of course, that’s all imagery, perhaps the best I’ve seen on the subject of 9/11, save one poem by Robert Salup. This is, of course, because the subject is not 9/11, but rather a human reaction to it. Not the gratuitous and ubiquitous “oh my god what happened,” bullshit, but a concentrated retrospective of “this happened,” used for his personal take on a subject much more broad than 9/11. Jonathan Safran Foer did the same thing with his, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” novel (buy).

And although he creates a fiction closer to non-fiction than Foer, this is where Bob Hicock shines: he is man of concrete ink. Nothing he says is inconceivable, and, yet, his concepts are completely original. Again, I’ll point you to a first line, this time from “The collector”

The museum of pieces of things left over when other things are put back together opens at nine.

This is an abstract image constructed entirely of concrete thought. It is magic. In short, Hicock is a leader. His pen makes trails you and I, as readers, are meant to follow and glad to do so because the trails seem so convincingly seamless. Within this greatest talent, though, lies a much more subversive trait…that of the narrative.

Hicock’s narrative style is unlike any other I’ve read. This can be attributed to his First Line Zig, Last Line Zag formula, but the magic is in the in-between. A true story teller, this author doesn’t rely on telling. He blends image after image as a painter would smear a dot of paint used to make the sun in order to create a stretch of sky (read the book to realize where I stole that from).

The downside to his poems tend to be the length aspect. As most of Hicock’s poems tend to be at-a-glance moments in time, most are summed up (due to his poetic genius) in a page at most. But not all poems are meant to be that short, and the discussion between artist and art can evolve into a life all its own. So, while his longer poems may tend to be a bit more labourous, stretching out the connectivity/relationship between first and last lines, they are still well worth the Ritalin prescription and focus needed to traverse such multi-page meditations.

And if all I’ve bad to say about the guy’s poetry is that some of his poems are longer than some of his other poems, what reason do you have to hesitate? Go buy his books now!

* taken from Bob Hicock’s “Documenting a decision”


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