Reviews for Elegy Owed

Booklist Reviews 2013 March #2
Words have weight in Hicok's poems. They feel nailed in place, and the meter hits like the sure pounding of a hammer. Yet as heft, muscle, and precision draw you forward, Hicok evokes not solidity but, rather, shifting ground, flux, metamorphosis, and, most arrestingly, most unnervingly, death. In his seventh collection, Hicok builds startling images out of the everyday and the surreal, the comic and the sorrowful. Avoiding abstraction and pretension (one particularly teasing poem is titled "Knockturn"), he cleaves to earth, skin, breath. He describes odd, private rituals involving attempts to reassemble shards and stop time. His variations on the elegy can be haunting, romantic, and bracingly irreverent. "Elegy to hunger" begins, "There's a strain of cannibalism / I admire." Intimate lyrics of love, fear, loss, and cosmic perplexity are matched by robust dissections and protests. Hicok's mordant view of our doomed consumer culture in "Obituary for the middle class" is balanced by his gruffly tender objection to the word inanimate, "Steel's got a pulse / as far as I'm concerned." This trenchant collection's got heart and soul. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #2

The easiest way to talk about the poetry of Bobbitt Prize winner Hicok (Words for Empty and Words for Full) is simply to quote it, and here are some choice lines. "My heart/ is whatever temperature a heart is/ in a man who doesn't believe in heaven." "The birds I feed seed every morning/ never thank me/ I tell them on my mother." "I wanted// to reverse my vasectomy on the spot and have a child with the moon." "Life has taken my cartilage and left me a biography of André Breton." "Others…are often sharp/ in my experience and pointy/ people are like scissors." And those are from just the first few poems of his fluid, absorbing new collection. Clearly, this is not over-earnest poetry. But it's not exactly laugh-out-loud poetry either; there's a difference between humor and a crafted absurdity that captures the not-so-crafted, aching ridiculousness of life. Hicok gives readers unexpected conjunctions and oddly offbeat thoughts, most darkly whimsical, and has us embrace them wholeheartedly. If he can survive the scary carnival that is this world, we can, too. VERDICT Highly recommended for a wide range of readers.--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #3

Hicok's poems are like boomerangs; they jut out in wild, associative directions, yet find their way back to the root of the matter, often in sincere and heartbreaking ways. His seventh book is hefty, containing poems in which a man can chop down wind, or "feel up" silence, though mostly this book explores death, the "lit fuse trailing each of us." Yet Hicok's poems about mortality and loss take on a vibrancy of their own, with a rhythm and humor that seems to fall into place by mere, desperate momentum. Language and memory haunt him, they "never/ let the living let the dead die." His title poem opens with the statement, "in other languages/ you are beautiful-- mort, muerto-- I wish/ I spoke moon, I wish the bottom of the ocean/ were sitting in that chair playing cards/ and noticing how famous you are/ on my cell phone." The next poem, "Missing," acknowledges his tendency to spiral into a random, nonsensical whimsy that at times feels forced: "Imagination says things like that/ without knowing what they mean." "The dark is my favorite suit to wear," Hicok says, and he means it. It's with a bitter humor that he observes how "God does these things like send us halfway out/ on a rope-bridge before telling us/ He's changed His mind about rope,/ it shouldn't exist, it's not going to exist." (Apr.)

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