cover image This Clumsy Living

This Clumsy Living

Bob Hicok, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $14 (101p) ISBN 978-0-8229-5953-3

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.