Above all, Bob Hicok
is a champion of the idiomatic. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, his work is straight-forward, edgy, willing to say the unspeakable, and willing to tap into the intense and immediate emotional spaces that another poet would not care to go to. Hicok has done and still does this with a grace under pressure that leaves a reader salivating. Second, his use of the idiomatic is something wholly American. This is not a rally-round-the-flagpole argument in the very least. However, the problem of the idiomatic in American poetry has been one that Whitman immediately alleviated. Simply put, his, and Hicok's, poetry sounds like everyday women and men speaking. Similarly, amidst all of the discord (see Marjorie Perloff's chapter/essay "whose era?" in The Dance of the Intellect
) of Modernism over the "new" shape of its poetry, a common denominator persisted in the rejection of Victorian rhetoric and an embrace of a more "common idiom" as Williams and Pound, among others, contended. I am not sure if Hicok cares how in tune with Williams and Whitman he may or may not be, but his work has undoubtedly contributed to new ways American poets currently think about the idiomatic quality of our poetry.
It may be apocryphal, but I’ve heard that pilots and surgeons have similar psychological profiles—they are aggressive, self-assured, contain a store of vast technical knowledge, intimidating. And whether or not it is factually true, the comparison does make sense. These are people we give great, blind trust to every day, unflinchingly. Our lives are literally in their hands, and very rarely do we even remember their names after the procedure or flight. It takes a certain amount of ego to name a piece “Real Poetry”, and Christopher Schaberg and Mark Yakich
earn that cheekiness as they constantly dazzle us through this piece’s pure expanse and its technical dexterity. The reader is constantly confronted with all of these aforementioned traits—traits that can be extended to the essayist and poet. “Real Poetry” is a collaboration in aviation that doesn’t ask for your trust because it doesn’t need it. It knows exactly what it’s doing. Relax—you’re in good, capable hands.