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Read an Excerpt of a Bob Hicok Interview for The Believer
MS: Your poetry is often very playful. But what’s interesting to me is how you oscillate between the humorous and the heavy. How do you see this oscillation working? Are there any specific writers or artists that inspire your aesthetic? Early? More recently?
BH: It took a while to notice this pattern to my poems, which is not intentional or willed. I think there’s a sorting out for me earlier in a poem, as well as a contextualizing, a presenting of whatever images/situations/thoughts have caught my attention. I’m associative by nature, so it’s inevitable that many of my poems will oscillate on both large and small scales, swing from one thing to another around a core that is often not articulated until later in the poem. Probably a lot of my poems are records of me discovering why a particular set of stimuli hold my attention. But the process itself, the process of making, really any process of making, because it leads to some kind of output, will convey a sense of order. What I like about poems is they can also carry a feeling of the disorder that leads to order, or leads to a desire for order.
Influence is tough for me to discuss. I’ve written or said this many times, but there weren’t poets at the start for me, I was reading novels and listening to music. Don DeLillo, Joy Williams, Saul Bellow. Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits. Now, I tend to read poets as correctives, to pull me away from a direction or tendency in my own writing I’m tired of. I had been writing some bleak stuff and so started reading Neruda every morning, I think for the feeling of optimism in his work, the big spark to it. Then I got tired of that, it started to feel lopsided because everything isn’t as wonderful as I love his poems for making it seem, and pulled O’Hara out for a few days but found him too jumpy (I love his poems, which means at times I hate his poems), so moved on to a new book by Sommer Browning that I adore but haven’t looked at for months. I think I read different poets to strike different tones or raise a flag in my mind I then have to walk toward.
Full excerpt here.