Ribbon. Streamers. Balloons. Neon. Fireworks. Pyow! Spssss! Clink! Yay! Woo!
Welcome to dVerse Poets everyone and pardon the mess…we are a little excited here…its our 2nd anniversary! Woohoo! This week, we have some very special things cooked up for you as part of our celebration. Tomorrow we have OpenLinkNight…
“Bri- don’t we do OpenLinkNight every week?”
‘Yes, we do, Claudia”
“Well it is our first one of the third year—and hopefully there will be some new poems. You have something for Wednesday, right?”
“Ah yes, Wednesday we have another publication contest.”
“Ooo, can you tell me more?”
“Nah, you will have to wait like everyone else.”
“And Thursday, Tony is doing a remix of any MeetingTheBar or FormForAll topic from the previous year.”
“I hear we might need a calculator for Saturday’s Poetics too.”
“Psst…I think we need to bring on our special guest for today as well…and not leave him waiting in the wings.”
“Oh yes, without further ado…an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech University. He’s the author of Words for Empty and Words for Full, This Clumsy Living, Insomnia Diary… just to mention a few. He is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Felix Pollak Prize, two NEA Fellowships and…and..and…Mr. Bob Hicok”
“Welcome Bob, glad you could join us here today for our anniversary.”
“hello Claudia and Brian. since you both sent similar messages…”
“Yeah, we got a little excited at the thought of having you here—how about a few questions?”
Claudia: I recently read Rilke’s letter to a young poet where he mentors a young man who has asked him for his advice. Did you ever mentor a poet one to one? Want to share some of your thoughts about mentoring and teaching?
Bob: Yes. I have done that. Teaching works best one-on-one. It really should be an apprenticeship.
Brian: if you were apprenticing someone what would you focus on?
Bob: My tendency is to read my mind aloud into the poems, to read a passage to the poet and tell him or her exactly what it makes me think or feel, and as the poem goes along, try to knit these bits together, until at the end, I’ve given them my experience of the poem. It’s a slow process, at least at the start of working with someone, since I go over every single line. I think it helps to get an undiluted take on a poem, and to hear someone trying to link the parts with the whole. The point is to give them a sense of how the poem operates, what its nature is.
Claudia: Some of the famous painters of a time often met somewhere along the way in cultural hot spots like Paris for example, talked art and life and inspired, challenged and influenced each other. Do you have a group of people who you meet with regularly to discuss life and poetry? Do you think such cultural hot spots still exist and where would they be for poetry?
Bob: No, I don’t. I have no idea where this might go on, though I’m sure it does. Let’s nominate Gary Indiana and Singapore. Two very similar cities, under the surface.
Claudia: Why do you find them similar? And have you ever been to a city that you found tremendously inspring – if yes – why?
Bob: O that was a joke. They strike me as having little in common.
Yes. I find most cities inspiring. But so far, Paris has had the greatest effect. I think it’s the buildings, the art. They convey such a love of space, of the human spaces we construct. That’s not common in the States. We tend to knock buildings down almost as we build them. And there’s very little public art in our cities. You see it in major cities but not as much as European cities, and it’s very rare in our smaller cities. Tending to where you live, cultivating its beauty, conveys a respect for material existence, is almost a way of saying, we want to be here.
Claudia: Did your writing attitude change when you went from fulltime work in the automative industry to your writing related job?
Claudia: Did your way of looking at poetry change?
Bob: I don’t think so. I’m certainly more involved with it, with poetry in general. But I’d been writing every day and still do. The biggest change, I guess, has to do with living in a different place. I went from a city to the country — we’re on 4 acres in the mountains — and nature came into my poetry in a way it hadn’t before.
Brian: What is the last thing you read where your response was ‘i wish i wrote that”?
Bob: The first 30 pages of Roberto Bolano’s “The Savage Detectives.” And I’m only 30 pages in.
Brian: What poem have you always wanted to write, but could never quite get it right?
Bob: A poem titled “Inventing the mirror” – In the beginning, sand resembled a face – that’s a far as I get.
Claudia: What are you looking for in a poet’s voice? What does a poem have to have to grab your attention?
Bob: Personality. The quality of meeting someone who is not a version of someone else. A one-off. A soul.
Claudia: In some of your poems you have a wonderful mixture of reality and whimsical, charming images to describe the people and what happens. I think that’s an excellent way to tackle difficult subjects and it makes your poems very accessible. Do you want to tell us a bit about how you come up with your ideas and sometimes so surprising images?
Bob: Thanks. But it’s nothing I do consciously, so no, I can’t tell you how my mind works. no one can tell you how their mind really works. Not in the turning gears or Rube Goldberg machine sense. The circuits aren’t allowed access to themselves.
Brian: In a previous interview, you said when you write you don’t think about your audience. Why do you consider that dangerous?
Bob: It makes people steer. And I’m not qualified to think for another person, to understand how they’re going to view what I do.
Claudia: Are you sometimes sick of writing and just feel you need a break? What are you doing then?
Bob: No. I don’t get sick of writing. I get sick of my poems, but not the making of poems.
Claudia: How long does the making of a poem take you? average
Bob: Two hours. Because I didn’t have much time to write, I learned to finish a poem in one sitting. Editing for me is more a matter of which poems get pitched and which don’t.
Claudia: What is your own favorite poem of yours — and why?
Bob: See above.
Brian: Is pizza still the root of happiness?
Bob: No. My wife is.
Brian: pretty cool answer, how did you meet your wife?
Bob: I was at a dinner party and she came into the room. I knew instantly. Though I have to say she’s not really my wife. I use the word for convenience. And girlfriend sounds sixteen and partner sounds corporate. She’s Eve. Not that Eve but close.
“That is very cool.”
“Thanks Bob for taking the time to tell us a bit about you and your view on poetry.”
Below two of his poems that he allowed us to use on this post.. enjoy…
The Smiths, as I understand them
(by Bob Hicok)
There’s a box at the hospital in which to deposit
children unlikely to win the Nobel Prize.
They cradled their son past that box,
though he’d been born with a pillow factory
where his heart should have been.
That first night, they took turns
putting ears to his chest, listening to feathers
being sorted, and wondered what kind of birds
lost their lives so the blood of sleep
could dream through his veins.
Doves, she hoped.
Roosters, his father said, surprising himself.
At the school for special children, his best friend,
a girl whose collar bones were the shadows
of bears, kissed him somehow
from the other side of the teeter-totter.
The boy whose eyes were lighthouses said, now
you have to get married.
Twenty years later, when they did, they came back
and made love on that teeter-totter, in the middle,
rocking slightly up and down, though the far ends
never touched the earth.
Their daughter knew none of this
until one day she cried
because she could not tip over or fall down
like the other kids at school.
Her mother, while explaining the conception
of the girl’s incomparable balance, braided her hair
into an actual swan, a black swan
who made the girl feel her head
was a pond on a windless day, which is what
she wrote in her diary: My head is a pond
on a windless day.
Leading the diary to write in its diary,
I didn’t have the heart to tell her
I felt a breeze, and in that breeze
I smelled a storm, and in that storm
I heard the screaming of trees, for the diary
had been raised to keep its thoughts
to itself, with perfect penmanship,
in the belief that words are bodies
who would admit, if asked, “my experience
of the transcendental has always been
a secondary one,” but go on, still,
to do the work we’ve asked them to,
to hold everything our arms cannot.
Making the list I will never make
(by Bob Hicok)
I’m supposed to write down what I want of my father’s
when he dies.
On the pad, I sketch a jogger going by on the country road.
The road is narrow, tangled, dangerous.
I give her a bumper in the sketch.
The bumper is light in the sketch, easy to carry.
Any car that would hit her in the sketch is also light
and could be erased. I check the eraser, it’s ready
to save life.
Your Jupiter, I write on the pad.
Your subway system.
A group of bicyclists whoosh along, their thighs big
as wind. There’s something of a cricket sound
to the collective tickings of metal they depend on.
I confess to the pad
that I want all of my father’s crickets.
His entire night, for that matter.
I’ve been thinking of getting away.
There’s a tree some hundred yards off
I’ve been waiting to get a brochure about,
something glossy and mostly blue that will tell me
about the museums and cafés to be found under the tree.
When I see my father, he lists the things I’m too late
to claim. Your sister gets the Colossus of Rhodes.
Your other sister gets the tire iron. Soon
there will be nothing left.
I’ve tried to explain
that I don’t like looking at living things
as dead things until it’s evident that the chickadee
did break its neck and probably also
cracked its skull when it hit the window. The whole time
that this was likely the case
but there was still thrashing in the holly,
I referred always with my emotions
to the life of the chickadee and never considered
which feather of its many I wanted or how I might fly.
I’d like your lean against the counter
when you’ve just done the dishes and someone
has said something that stops you
from going outside to say goodnight to the lawn mower.
The lawn mower itself can go to hell.
All the decapitating at high speeds and noise, all that stink.
Once, when I was very young, when I was forty years
from sitting here with this pad and this task, I thought,
I hope mom makes pudding tonight.
Give me that, old man. And the river and the frogs
and the first time I stayed up to touch dusk
with you both on the couch and you both
unaware of how tingly the moment was to my skin.
The rest of it requires shelves and boxes and garages
and weighs a ton and will anyway get lost
or die of rust and bears no love for the tingly skin.
Your thirty-third breath.
Your lifeline to scold.
Thanks again, Bob…and to all of you reading this as well…we are excited to be passing 2 years and look forward to not only the excitement of this week…but many fun poetry filled weeks ahead. See you tomorrow—3 pm EST.