Did I ever tell you about my love/hate relationship with confessional poetry?

Bob Hicok is coming to Babson College on February 16. We met briefly at this year's Dodge Festival, not that he would remember, but I'm psyched that he's coming as part of our Thompson Poetry Series. And, we are both scheduled to read at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March. For now, I leave you with this poem, from his book Animal Soul.


Did I ever tell you about my love/hate
relationship with confessional poetry?

Sometimes I leave my head in the other room.
Sometimes the other room is a few days
by horse away. I once told a man

I’d had a good time at the funeral,
which was true, not knowing the body
in the casket before it has ceased

to move and what with the sandwiches,
what with the woman to my left
smelling like she was the motive

of summer as she whispered the Polish names
from a novel in which no bad thing
happened. Usually bad things happen

in novels every chapter, this is how
narrative’s advanced, a prince is born
and a prince gets dysentery and a prince

dies in a revolution with an appetite
for princes. As a child I held my breath
to break the knees of advancing narrative,

my face turned blue and body collapsed,
my parents looked at their little heap
of boy and loved me despite the evidence.

Even now you could ask that I imagine
a field and instead of poppies waving
blue heads I’d picture a tractor on fire,

smoke and a farmer standing back, resigned
with hands in pockets as if this too
is just a change of season. The other thing

I get wrong most of the time is caring
about people. For instance: recently blood
collected in my grandmother where blood

shouldn’t, everything she said came out
like Jiffy Pop on the stove just before
the foil rips, people cried and the hospital

was a factory of indifference and I scurried
home to write a poem about death. This
is not an indication that my head’s not

in the other room but up my ass and that
my soul’s in there with it. I don’t mean
to care less about people that what

people do, and could like and say
I’ve taken steps to increase my devotion
to the actual limbs that come off and hearts

that stop, so I will. The art
of confession’s to focus attention on what’s
confessed while leaving the secret

mutations untouched. I once put the hose
of a vacuum on my penis and turned it
on. Honesty makes me feel so clean.

—Bob Hicok


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