A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,” can sincerely use the word “sincere.”


Almost twenty years ago Bob Hicok published his first collection of poems, a chapbook called Bearing Witness. It’s a little hard to believe that a poet who in his latest book has a poem entitled “Hope is a thing with feathers that smacks into a window” ever could have been satisfied with that earnest, earlier title. Sure, the movement from simplicity to the witty, complex, and allusive is emblematic of the changes this poet has undertaken over a couple of decades. But there is something else in the earnestness of that early title, a sense that the act of poetry could bear witness—reach out past the merely personal and the purely linguistic—and perhaps even that it should. Behind the more nuanced frame of the recent work, that attitude has continued to inform Hicok’s poems, even as they have become syntactically complex, seriously humorous, and imaginatively demanding. I should disclose, though I do so with some embarrassment, that at the request of the publisher I contributed a particularly fatuous blurb for Bearing Witness. But I remember being genuinely impressed by Hicok’s facility with constructing wildly different personae for his poems.

more from Keith Taylor at Boston Review here.