Two Things I Love
But after yesterday's Surprised Squirrel upsetness about a book I thought I would tell you about two things I really really love today. I know I'm hard on things. I love hard and I hate hard. It's how I roll. But right now I love.
One: Bob Hicok. Oh my god, you don't know who he is. I know you don't, because I wouldn't if I had not spent time in graduate school with people who wrote poetry about baseball and their fathers instead of fairies (playing baseball) and spaceships (piloted by fathers). They made me read Hicok and I always remembered the one poem of his I loved. (I should not malign the baseball poets. They also introduced me to Anna Akmahtova and Marina Tsvetaeva. They have taste, I am not arguing.)
He is a poet. Of awesome. My favorite poem of his remains the first one I ever read: Did I Ever Tell You About My Love/Hate Relationship With Confessional Poetry? which you can tell is amazing from the title. It's one of my top five favorite poems of all time, right after Rich's Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law. I went looking for the text online the other day because I wanted to quote from it and thought: damn, I want to quote from this all the time and it's very hard to find online. In fact, my quoting of it in an article is one of the first hits on the title. I should just buy the damn collection it's in. And so I did.
Oh, Reader, I am so in love. I am in love with a 50-year old realist poet. He is so funny and wry and rambly but incredibly sharp and his lines actually make me laugh out loud but not in a stupid way like most humorous poetry does, which is a lot more like barfing out loud. SF poetry in particular has this amazing hard-on for "humorous" poetry and it is almost never funny, almost always involves puns that make me long for the sweet embrace of death, and manage to trivialize whatever the heart of the poem actually was. But Bob Hicok is the real kind of funny, the clever and poignant but not ever treacly and drops the f-bomb sometimes but not too much and just plain weird a lot of the time.
On the back of the book there were blurbs about his work. Now, because he is so funny and irreverent and writes about how once he put a vacuum hose on his penis and his name makes us think of cowboys, Hicok is kind of considered a bad boy in American poetry. Whatever. The blurbs buy into this thesis. They talk about the "incandescent rage" of his verse and how "strong" and "muscular" his poems are and LOLZ. I saw those blurbs and I worried. I thought: oh shit, when I read his other poems, will they be Manly Poems about Not Feeling Things Is Great and how much women are stupid and dicks are awesome? (And baseball?) Oh, I don't want Hicok to be like that. The book has the word Animal in the title. I don't want this to be a swaggering Hughesian cockbook. Please, poetry gods, hear my do not want.
But then a miracle happened. Because he isn't like that. The very first poem starts out talking about how fucked up it is that fish can get mad cow disease and ends up talking about how much he loves his wife in this way that is not even remotely sentimental. Like, you could read it at a wedding, because it is gorgeous and quotes Ruth, but then your parents would be mad, because it it so weird and funny and is about fish and black holes. There is another poem called Vagina Canticle and OMG I was literally bracing myself for how this would be like the Manly Poet equivalent of Mambo No. 5.
But it starts with a quote from the Vagina Monologues and is this tender, lovely poem with a little bit of magic in it about a 72-year-old woman masturbating for the first time and how amazing that is and how sad, too, but mostly amazing. It's not prurient or exploitative or condescending and it has no male gaze and it doesn't go EW OLD CHICKS at all. It's just kind. The last lines just kill me in the chest.
How strange and astonishing to find a middle aged male poet who is billed as being all Rageasaurus but really is just hilarious and sarcastic and biting and so full of love it knocks you absolutely sideways. He is quite manful, but in a great way that makes me aspire to being more manful myself, rather than an asshole Tucker Max on Oxford sort of way. He doesn't write anything like the other poets I love or me but I am just so enamoured of his voice and his weirdness that isn't SF weirdness but kind of is because in the world I know the guy who is a smart as hell poet but likes women (not just wants to fuck them but likes them and spends his poetic energy thinking about their experience sometimes) and isn't an arrogant jerk but is still a wiseass jerk in his voice, the kind of wiseass jerk I am and like to hang out with? That is a unicorn. A sarcastic unicorn with beer. I want all his books ever. Maybe I will get up the courage to email him sometime.
The other thing I really like is this Nine Stones Shiraz I got from Trader Joe's. It's really shockingly good and not even just for its price. It's from Australia which makes me hug it because Australia now brings up all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings in me (like wine!) but damn, it is delicious.
The previous two things were combined last night. This is an excellent thing. If I were an editor I would totally do wine pairings for poems and stories.