Wednesday, April 10, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 10: “Mortal Shower” by Bob Hicok

Read “Mortal Shower” here*.

I’ve been following Bob Hicok’s work for years, and I’m a little bit obsessed with him (more about that below). His poems used to occasionally appear in journals that my work was in too, and I was like, hey, this fellow poet, this peer, is pretty danged good. And then he rocketed off to well-deserved fame. His poems always surprise me with their mix of self-effacing humor, hard-earned wisdom, and unlikely beauty. “Mortal Shower” is a perfect example of that; I’m laughing out loud by the time I get to “I once cared / what went on back there,” but there’s all this artistry too: the misdirection of the title, that Louise Glück thing he does with the startling first line, and then where it ends up—who’d have thought this rumination on a butt would be a love poem?

And look at those great first and last lines. Is that the key to everything?

Another thing I admire about Hicok is that he delves deep into whatever he’s talking about. He’s a poet who’s not afraid to continue writing, who grants us the respect of hoping we’ll stay with him on the ride. Writing my own poems, I find myself often wanting to wrap it up, to end in a quick cut before my own MTV-generation brain gets bored with the poem. I like to return to poets like Hicok who go the distance, who really explore that trail they’re taking you down. Sometimes it reminds me to listen when a voice is saying keep going.

OK, here’s my little bit of obsession with Hicok: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read one of his poems and thought, oh wow, I have to go find this guy on social media. He would be such an interesting Facebook friend! He must be a crack-up on Twitter! And then I go search for him…and I never find him. So, okay, maybe he lives in a cabin in the woods. Maybe he doesn’t have a computer. Maybe he’s 200 years old, a medical marvel. A vampire?

* I feel bad that the only version of this poem I could find online is at this site called PoemHunter, which seems to be a place that just lifts poems from wherever, regardless of whether they’re violating someone’s copyright. I tend to only run across this site when I’m really desperate to find a poem for a handout for a class or something. And now I wonder where in the world I originally read this poem? (Maybe the literary journal it first appeared in?) And I see the users of PoemHunter have rated this poem as a 2.7 out of 5. Fools. When I was looking at PoemHunter to reread this poem before writing this post, the poem’s “video” started off with an ad for some company called California Psychics.

[All through April, I’m featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

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