Further Meditation on Bob Hicok’s Poetry Reading
For the event analysis, I chose to attend a poetry reading by the well-known poet, Bob Hicok. I had never been to a poetry reading before, and I had no preconceptions of what to expect. What I experienced was a surprise and I learned something new—about poetry, and about myself in general. This is how my Hicok poetry encounter commenced…
I trudged up the seemingly never-ending four stories worth of stairs to fulfill a requirement for my English class-something that no one in his or her right mind would freely choose to do, or so I thought. Huffing and puffing (I really should go to the FAC more often), I finally reached the top of the stairs to the fourth floor programming room, Loyola’s equivalent to Mt. Everest. To my surprise, the room was packed. I even ran into a few close friends of mine, next to whom I quickly took a seat. Before the reading began, the announcer told everyone that there were cookies and beverages in the back, a college students’ favorite- free food!
This repast as bribery further convinced me that the next hour or two would surely be pure torture. After all, they had to use sweet enticement to lure us to this event. Wiping the crumbs from my face, I sat down and tried not to nod off to sleep. To my great surprise, I was anything but bored. Who would have guessed that the award-winning poet, Bob Hicok, actually knew what he was doing? At times, his poems literally had the crowd laughing out loud. With his poem, “Speaking America,” he stated, “Love is like cheese,” inciting a few giggles and quite a few raised brows, intrigued to see where he was going to go with that. By the end of the poem, the room had gained new insights into how love really can be like cheese, and time, and like so many other things, of which one would never have thought before hearing his poem.
The imagery in the poem, “A Sense of a Sense of Community,” spoke of “bathrooms worthy of zip codes,” which gave great mental images of mansions with beautiful décor. Hicok took a turn for the serious in a few of his poems, including, “In the Loop,” which kept all of us on the edge of our small, plastic chairs while Hicok described a former student, one of the shooters at Virginia Tech. Hicok spoke of his family’s hardships, including ordinary life transitions such as his wife going through menopause and more serious ones, as his sister losing her house. Hicok wrenched our heartstrings when he explicitly portrayed the humiliation and pain that his 56-year-old sister went through when she was forced to move back in with her parents because she could not even afford to keep her belongings in storage.
Hicok spoke of ex-lovers, broken hearts, and women who just stopped talking to him, out of the blue. In, “The Order of Things,” he mentioned that “nobody throws a cocktail better” than his exes. He was not afraid to frankly share about his high school days, when everyone was doing “algebra, then cocaine, then each other.” Hicok held nothing back as he spoke of sending naked pictures of himself to a woman he barely knew. He then explained that he played a seriously misguided joke on the woman that led to unanswered phone calls and his leaving pathetic voice messages. Hicok thought the only logical thing to do to repair what he had done would be to write on her windshield in bright, red lipstick, “I HAVE A PENIS,” to which she looked up after reading and responded, “So do I.”
Bob Hicok has an unusual way to convey everyday events and life-altering changes. Within the span of an hour, Hicok took us through a rollercoaster ride of emotions that evoked a range of feelings, from goose bumps to sidesplitting laughter. Whether he was putting his spin on the “lousy economy,” or talking about how pie charts in grade school made him hungry, Hicok kept his audience both entertained and itching for more. He was left with a standing ovation and hoards of students rushing up to have him sign their books, ask him questions, or simply thank him.
This event was something I would have never chosen to attend on my own, but I am glad that I got out of my element and discovered something different that was truly enjoyable. In the future, I will definitely go to more poetry readings and try other new things I have yet to experience. This has taught me to take a step out of my comfort zone every once in a while and I may just expand my horizons a bit.
Though it was hard to see where Hicok was going in the beginning of the poetry reading, his poetry eventually made sense and became increasingly interesting to me. Similarly, Koro, from Witi Ihimaera’s, The Whale Rider, was initially unaware of what the presence of his new grandchild would bring. While he was being close-minded and expecting the worst, he got a great surprise, beyond what he had thought he originally wanted. I experienced a similar transformation when I went to the poetry reading with a sour disposition. Like Koro, once I was able to open myself up to new possibilities, and new ways of seeing things, I ended up experiencing something far better than I could have ever anticipated.