I marvel at the wonderment and word play that goes on in Bob Hicok’s poetry. I can’t do what he does, but I want to—which is exciting for me as a poet and a reader. So I feel pretty lucky to have been able to spend a little with him when he came to Babson this week.
Bob read to our students at an evening reading, which was terrific, but he also spoke to a small group of students in our chapel the next day. (My timing was off—did not get any pictures. *sigh*)
Here are a few gems from his Q&A with students.
When asked how much editing does he put into his work, Bob said he’s one of those writers who writes and then moves on. Most of the revision that he does is across poems. He writes daily, and learned early on how to finish most poems in one sitting. And when a poem doesn’t work, it’s a matter of striking off in a different direction. “When I get distracted,” Bob said, “I remind myself of that thing that interested me in the first place.” Whether you’re writing poetry vs. short stories, it’s all just “… words on a page.”
Another student asked how have his past jobs affected his poetry, and how does his work life affect his writing. This was a great question for Bob with Babson’s business students because long ago Bob owned an automotive dye company in Michigan for many years. (And I’ve always thought entrepreneurs and artists share common bonds.) Ultimately, you have to follow your passion. “If you end up doing work you don’t like, it will crush you.”
In terms of making a living as a writer, “The model people don’t talk about … I’m a plumber … and I like to write stories. … Do you have a lot of energy? Because writers have to publish. There’s no way around it. People have to like your work.” In order to have success as a writer, you have to build a life around work you can do, and then write at night. Bob goes on to say, “You can do both, but you have to do the work.”
When asked about inspiration, and how much he draws from real-life experiences, Bob answered, “I’ve moved pretty far from narrative. I like making things up.” Also, “Boredom is the best thing to pay attention to.” He went on to say that “You’re not going to escape your primal interests or concerns … but you can make the work multifaceted—you can change the angles.” Talking about that “thing” you’re writing about too much will cause you to lose interest. “There has to be something that comes out of the moment that’s different for you.”