In Bob Hicok’s Water Look Away, we witness a brilliant poet enter a dark space and attempt to write himself out again. Told in experimental forms, from a range of perspectives— a wife who commits suicide, a husband left behind — this raw collection reads like a novella and wrestles with loss as it complicates the grief process. Working backwards from acceptance to explore depression and anger, heartbreak and remorse, often with great tenderness, Water Look Away offers pages of insight that will make you reach for a pen. Here, poetry embalms a marriage–an experimental affair, a series of miscarriages, a red bed painted on a wall. When the retelling of their first meeting morphs from “recounting” to “dreampage,” Hicok asks, how long can we trust memory when those we love are no longer there to remember with us?
These are not passive poems—period placement, unconventional spellings, and neologisms invite an active reader who is prepared to question meaning and intention. A present collection written in the past tense, these lines make you want to hold your loved ones closer, and prove that while this collection is no fairytale, it is still a love story—of husband and wife, of poetry and language. Within every poem is an undeniable love for words and a vulnerable appeal to individuals who share this affinity for language: “I’m always reading. Turning the pages of your face. / Dog-earing the way you smiled.”
Every time she read of the train
going off the bridge in the book
she’d read to death, (duct-taped
spine, much of the breath
of her eyes caught in its pages),
she wondered if her reflection
would have looked at her
from the other side and brought
a finger to its lips, if hush
isn’t the answer to everything.
“An experimental collection openly reckoning with our inner darkness and using humor, empathy, and philosophy to blunt the pummeling tragedy, anger, and depression inherent in the human condition. . . . Hicok’s wordplay can present challenging, questioning puzzles without clear answers, but his poems also offer the salve of laughter as we continue to open and close the books of our selves.”—Micah Zevin, Booklist
“It’s hard to know what resolution to the angst and uncertainty, if any, Hicok arrives at, a la Kübler-Ross, but the speculation is profound and compelling, the poetry like an ouroboros, a snake biting its tail in a symbol of the infinity of the cycle of birth and death.”—Charles Rammelkamp, The Lake