Bob Hicok

Award-winning Poet


"[S]eamlessly, miraculously, his judicious eye imbues even the dreadful with beauty and meaning." —New York Times


“One of the most individual and necessary voices of his generation.”
—David Wojan


“The most potent ingredient in virtually every one of Bob Hicok's compact, well-turned poems is a laughter as old as humanity itself, a sweet waggery that suggests there's almost no problem that can't be solved by this poet's gentle humor.” —New York Times Book Review


“Bob Hicok’s poetry is a…temporary solace from the chaos of the world,” declares the LA Times. His most recent collection, Elegy Owed (Copper Canyon Press)was published in April 2013 and Words for Empty and Words for Full (University of Pittsburgh Press) came out in 2010. This Clumsy Living was awarded the Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress; Animal Soul was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The Legend of Light received the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and was named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year. Other titles are Insomnia Diary (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004), and Plus Shipping (BOA, 1998), In the words of David Wojan, “Bob Hicok asks to be a voice of conscience in a conscience-less world. And, like all true prophets, his rage and consternation in the end transform themselves into a form of prayer, what one of his poems calls a ‘mad…devotion.’ Hicok is able to instruct and console us, and that is a very rare thing indeed.” 

A recipient of five Pushcart Prizes, Guggenheim and two NEA Fellowships, Hicok’s poetry has been selected for inclusion in six volumes of Best American Poetry. He is also the recipient of the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from The American Poetry Review and the Anne Halley Prize from The Massachusetts Review. Hicok is an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. Prior to teaching, Hicok worked for nearly two decades as an automotive die designer and eventually owned his own business.

About ELEGY OWED (Poetry, 2013)
Gritty, complicated, and earnest, Elegy Owed breaks—then salvages—the rules for mourning. While poet Bob Hicok remembers the departed as ephemera or skin cells, fog is invited to tea and ex-girlfriends are resurrected via the occult magic of hard-drive memory. Hicok’s language is so humid with expectation and fearlessness that his poems create a clandestine manual to survival.


“With Words for Empty and Words for Full, Hicok has begun to find a way to combine the several aspects of his imagination—narration, association, humor, self-conscious reflexivity. The result is poetry memorable for its structure, its image and sound, but also for demanding that we readers enter into some serious thinking about our place and time.” —Boston Review

About THIS CLUMSY LIVING (Poetry, 2007)
Hicok is known for his muscular, witty, and charming language; and if poetry is a surrealist mechanism made of words, then this is a perfect poet. But is poetry such a mechanism? Though Hicok never misses a chance to make fun and to have fun, his poems offer a great deal more than ready playfulness. What elevates Hicok above many talented—but limited—pyrotechnists is his brave openness toward his (and our) feelings. He does not merely show off his tricks in front of the world; he embraces it. As he says in a poem about cancer, “There is a piece of a second / during which a jet is not flying / nor is it on the ground. // I’m working on a theory / that no one can die / inside that piece of a second. // If you are comforted by this thought you are welcome / to keep it.” This collection works because it dwells on human experience and because at its best the language is charged with unforgettably lyrical wisdom. —Library Journal