Throughout this, his third volume, the Michigan-based automotive die designer and author of Bearing Witness continually asserts his bona fides as a Raymond Carver—like Everyman, who understands the down and out, the heroin addict, the Holocaust victim, and can even get down with the homeys. Hicok's little stories from all over proclaim their grit and drive: "what/you perceive in my work isn—t art/ but a pulse." This anti-aesthetic nevertheless finds him arranging his lines in quatrains and such, though that's about his only concession to form. Hicok often relies on an easy sense of outrage and irony: in the title poem, he takes umbrage at a commercial catalogue's exploitation of Navajo culture, on sale for the "beef-fatted, tax-sheltered,/ divot- spewing tribe" of shoppers; or, in "Watching Welles," he bemoans the sad spectacle of the great director reduced in old age to voice-overs and tv ads. Sometimes, his poems simply lose themselves in abstraction: a poem about his relatives, "Reunion," editorializes about "the fascism of time" and "the icons and totems through which guilt is ritualized." Hicok's strength is in his portraiture (a mugging victim, a young prostitute, a snakehandler) and in his at times unsparing view of family. Like Carver, Hicok at worst is a sentimentalist: he welcomes alternative universes in "Other Lives . . . " so that he might be loved in them all.
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