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“A Primer” by Bob Hicok

May 19, 2008

A Primer

by Bob Hicok May 19, 2008

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2008/05/19/080519po_poem_hicok

I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go

to be in Michigan. The right hand of America

waving from maps or the left

pressing into clay a mold to take home

from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan

forty-three years. The state bird

is a chained factory gate. The state flower

is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical

though it is merely cold and deep as truth.

A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”

can sincerely use the word “sincere.”

In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.

When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.

There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life

goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,

which we’re not getting along with

on account of the Towers as I pass.

Then Ohio goes corn corn corn

billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget

how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.

It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.

The Upper Peninsula is a spare state

in case Michigan goes flat. I live now

in Virginia, which has no backup plan

but is named the same as my mother,

I live in my mother again, which is creepy

but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,

suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials

are needed. The state joy is spring.

“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”

is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,

when February hasn’t ended. February

is thirteen months long in Michigan.

We are a people who by February

want to kill the sky for being so gray

and angry at us. “What did we do?”

is the state motto. There’s a day in May

when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics

is everywhere, and daffodils are asked

by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes

with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.

In this way I have given you a primer.

Let us all be from somewhere.

Let us tell each other everything we can.

This poem by Bob Hicok has inspired me to do a new project: 50 States. I want to do my own primer on 50 States…not all political, physical states, and they don’t all have to be mine. I am going to try to do 50 States in 50 days. Wish me luck! And send me a link or a comment with a Primer of your own about your own state–I’d like to get an anthology together on the project! Let’s tell each other everything we can.

UPDATE SEPT 3 2008: In addition to the poem posted next to this, there’s a new poem in this project “The State of Optimism  here and a video too.

Bob Hicok teaches at Virginia Tech. There’s tons of interviews and other stuff about him on the web but this is what I found most interesting, his own description of his research interests on the Virginia Tech website:
Bob Hicokphoto
Associate Professor
243
231-4479
hicok@vt.edu
I write poems and stories. I have little faith or interest in my thoughts on writing. Those who do a thing are often too close to be perceptive commentators, particularly where love is involved. I love writing, maybe most of all because it doesn’t matter, because poems don’t lift bridges or make refrigerators shinier. The nakedness of the endeavor—just one person, sitting at a desk, trying to express something they feel in a way that will allow others into their mind—may be among the most human things we do. We are the mouths of the world, and through poetry we speak.
(BTW, I really like how Bob’s orange shirt matches my blog and must point out that I did not photo shop it that way.)
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