Bob Hicok: “Particularly Fanciful Diarist”

Here’s Bob Hicok reading a poem:


And here’s what Kathleen has to say about him:


Born in Grand Ledge, Michigan in 1960, Bob Hicok has published numerous works, the most recent of which being This Clumsy Living in 2007 which was awarded the 2008 Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress. His other works include Insomnia Diary (Pitt, 2004), Animal Soul (Invisible Cities Press, 2001),a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Plus Shipping (BOA, 1998), and The Legend of Light (University of Wisconsin, 1995), which received the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year.  Hicok has received three Pushcart and Guggenheim Prizes and two NEA Fellowships. His poetry has also been selected to be included in five volumes of Best American Poetry.

Before he worked at his current job as an Associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, he also worked as an automotive die designer and a computer system administrator.


Hicok’s poems take great pleasure in the use of pop culture material and make use of elements such as speech and storytelling. He’s not afraid to describe images that make people feel uneasy, like a woman giving birth, or a man vomiting. Elizabeth Gaffney, writer for the New York Times Book Review, once said “Each of Mr. Hicok’s poems are 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.”


In an interview with Caffeine Destiny, an online magazine, Hicok tells of his own personal influences or lack thereof.

Who do you admire or believe are influences on your work?
Influences are tough for me to identify, because when I started writing and for a long time after, I wasn’t reading poetry. I was reading Don DeLillo and Joy Williams, novels mainly. Now I bounce around quite a bit. Just pulled out The Lost Pilot after years. Am reading Gwendolyn Brooks these days and loving her work, WC Williams and feeling very disappointed in his.

The entire interview’s here:

Compare and Contrast:

I personally believe that Hicok is more like Whitman in his style. Both use poetic language to describe the events happening around them, more grounded in reality than Dickinson. Whitman’s poems mostly focus on the outside of the body, while Dickinson’s focus more on the mind and the convoluted imaginary. Hicok’s poems can come across as particularly fanciful diary entry, while Dickinson’s are more like describing a dream she had.

2 thoughts on “Bob Hicok: “Particularly Fanciful Diarist”

  1. Jasmine March 8, 2012 / 9:49 pm

    Actually, I didn’t really like Hicok when were reading him in class, but when I went back in and started reading some of his stuff on my own, I really grew to like it. A lot of his work seems to cover stuff that might be deemed uncomfortable, controversial, or maybe a little too graphic, but he approaches it really easily. I mean that it doesn’t sound forced or like he’s on his toes while writing it. He talks about lesbians the same way he might talk about a delicious piece of cheese. I get that feeling that everything is equally as important to him. I’m envious of that. To have a clear cut, confident voice is a really great gift.

  2. Adriane March 9, 2012 / 9:09 pm

    I haven’t really decided if I like Hicok or not, but I find his style interesting. His writing is so laid-back and nonchalant, and he seems like the type of guy who writes like he talks. He doesn’t dress uncomfortable topics up to make them more appealing, and, like Manning, he tells it like it is. I found “An Old Story” a charming way of expressing love of something that is not a person, and “Man of the House” extremely sad (although I’m not altogether sure why). Sometimes Hicok makes sense, and sometimes he doesn’t, but I believe he has found the perfect balance between the two.

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