From Publishers Weekly
Hicok's neo-surrealist charm and conversational wit have gathered, slowly and certainly, a following for his four previous books: this fifth shows the casual (sometimes too casual) divagations and distortions of everyday life in which he has specialized, both in rapidfire prose poems and in a fluently American free verse. At his best, he is disarmingly quotable: "It is comforting to talk/ to large animals, whether they listen or not". Hicok (Insomnia Diary, 2004) oscillates between incidents from his own life and responses to breaking news, concluding "there's so much tearing down to build to tear down to forget/ there was anything to remember." A long dialogue about an apparently imaginary painting becomes a defense of Hicok's associative method, suggesting that you too might live without "a frame around your life." At best, Hicok offers an unruly and winning combination of brio and bizarrie, halfway between Billy Collins and Dean Young; at worst, his poems sound chatty and improvised, able to continue indefinitely.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
" The arrival of This Clumsy Living is cause for celebration, as it firmly places [Hicok] among a collection of astute poets with a keen eye for both the common and the extraordinary, and confirms these poems, at turns playful and disturbing though always emotionally charged, as some of the finest being written today."
--American Book Review
“Bob Hicok’s poetry is a fleeting comfort, a temporary solace from the chaos of the world. Smart, honest, powerfully inventive, his writing asks the biggest questions while acknowledging that there are no answers beyond the imposed structure of the page.”
--Los Angeles Times
Hicok’s new collection will further broaden the reputation of a poet already celebrated at mid-career; his Animal Soul was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award in 2002. Hicok is known for his muscular, witty, and charming language, and if poetry is a surrealist mechanism made of words, then this is a perfect poet. But is poetry such a mechanism? Though Hicok never misses a chance to make fun and to have fun, his poems offer a great deal more than ready playfulness. What elevates Hicok above many talented—but limited—pyrotechnists is his brave openness toward his (and our) feelings. He does not merely show off his tricks in front of the world; he embraces it. As he says in a poem about cancer, “There is a piece of a second/ during which a jet is not flying/ nor is it on the ground.// I’m working on a theory/ that no one can die/ inside that piece of a second.// If you are comforted by this thought you are welcome/ to keep it.” Ultimately, this collection works because it dwells on human experience and because at its best the language is charged with unforgettably lyrical wisdom. Recommended for all poetry collections.
”Disarmingly quotable. . . . Offers an unruly and winning combination of brio and bizarrie, halfway between Billy Collins and Dean Young.”
”At his best, [Hicok] has always fused deeply wounded moments of pathos with an oddly welcome levity, much like everybody’s favorite uncle who’s never afraid to tell a good joke at a funeral, even if it’s his wife lying in the casket. And the same can be said of ‘This Clumsy Living’, perhaps Hicok’s most obscure and mature book to date. Most notably, and with a heightened political consciousness in tow, these poems meditate on the tyranny of the human condition in the early twenty-first century.”
—Barn Owl Review