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This month’s column features poems from Bob Hicok’s much-anticipated new book Insomnia Diary.
Bob has an uncanny way of using humor and metaphors from daily life to breakthrough to the numinous.
His use of metaphor is similar to the function of metaphor in myth. As Joseph Campbell stated in
The Power of Myth, “that’s what poetry is for. Poetry is a language that has to be penetrated.
Poetry involves a precise choice of words that will have implications and suggestions that go past
the words themselves. Then you experience the radiance, the epiphany.
The epiphany is the showing through of the essence.”
Insomnia Diary uses scenes from everyday life to show us the miraculous contained
in the mundane. Whether it is a visit by the telephone repairman, a drive in a Greyhound bus,
an employer calling an ex-employee, or watching TV in a hotel room there is always something
unexpected lurking behind what we may have taken for granted — lessons to be learned everywhere,
if we only take the time to see.
Hicok’s self-deprecation is just one mechanism he uses to place the reader at
ease and to add humor to his work. From a detailed review of his sagging backside to his creeping
hair loss, nothing is off limits. Yet right when you are laughing loudest, and convinced that the
poem is simply a brilliant homily on the inane, your stomach is yanked out from the inside by a
masterful twist in the metaphor and the whole poem makes sense in a completely different, poignant
way. Reaching the end of one of his poems, you should pause and think. Sit with the imagery and
the language; let them wash over you, as the full extent of the message is absorbed. You’ll be well
rewarded for your time. The three poems I have selected here are all good examples of this powerful
style. Please let me know what you think of these poems, and please share with me some of your
favorites at email@example.com.
Bob Hicok is assistant professor of English at Virginia Tech University in
Blacksburg, Virginia. His poetry has appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker,
Ploughshares, and Poetry. In addition to Insomnia Diary, he is the author of
Animal Soul, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.
He is also the author of The Legend of Light, which won the 1995 Felix Pollak Prize in
Poetry and was an ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year, and Plus Shipping.
These poems are copyrighted and appear here with the permission of the
poet and may not be reproduced without permission.