Interview With a Poet: Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks is Writer-in-Residence at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. He is a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States, a native of Stillwater, Minn., who attended Saint John’s University. His book, Finding the Gossamer, reveals both worldliness and intimacy, sometimes in the same poem.

He has taught in Spain and Germany, and his essays, poetry and fiction have appeared in more than 75 journals, including Ploughshares, The Progressive, Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, Nimrod, Chelsea, Rattle,  Poet Lore, Poetry East, South Dakota Review, Briar Cliff Review, The Hollins Critic, The National Catholic Reporter and Studies. He has been nominated three times for The Pushcart Prize, and he is the author of chapbooks Traveling Through History (Moon Pie Press, 2005), Draglines (Lone Willow Press, 2006) and The Kiss that Saved My Life (Red Dragonfly Press, 2007).

After Long Busyness: The poems in Finding the Gossamer cover a lot of ground geographically, chronologically and personally. Was it hard to get such a diverse group of poems to “get along”?

Patrick Hicks: In a word: “yes”. Some of these poems were written 15 years ago when I was a completely different person so it was hard to find a unifying thread. I was trying to find a metaphorical link to hold all these diverse poems and, as I kept thinking about how to keep them stable between the covers of a book, the concept of a web came to me—how we and our lives are interconnected, that sort of thing. Once I had that, the four subchapters of “Finding the Gossamer” came quickly. It’s no wonder that many ancient forms of mythology have the spider as the originator of the universe. Webs and spinning stories that stick with us go together naturally, I think.

ALB: “Travelling with My Father” is a poem with three sections covering trips dated between 1995 and 1999. Did those sections start out as separate poems that you strung together after the fact, or were they intended to be a single poem from their inception?

PH: They began as separate poems. In fact, I wrote the first one in Germany (maybe even in Berlin, I can’t remember) when my father came to visit me. It seemed like a good idea a few years later to write another poem about our trip to Dublin together and, as I looked at these two poems, it seemed that a third would round off this “father/son trilogy” nicely. So, when we visited the North Shore of Minnesota, I was looking for a poem from that experience. I think all of them hang together nicely and, to my surprise, a number of people have been moved by it. Maybe this has happened because I’ve tapped into the father/son bond in a way that invites others to join my own father and I as we travel around? Many readers project their own father into that poem, which I think is just wonderful.

ALB: The concept in “Lipstick Traces” intrigues me: “What if our parents had never met?” How did that idea come about?

PH: My mother is from Northern Ireland and the fact that she met my American father is…well…the odds are just stupidly high they would meet at all. The window of opportunity for them to come together in Montreal was so slender—they should have walked right past each other—but fortunately for me that’s not what happened. They met, they fell in love, they got married, they had me. But it just as easily could have gone the other way, which would mean the life behind this very sentence wouldn’t be here. That’s a humbling thought.

Plus, when I consider that my wife is English and that we met on a doorstep in Brighton, England, on fine day in July…that equally shouldn’t have happened. The life that I have with her now came so close to not existing. It’s like this for all of us though. And when you consider our grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great whatevers, it gets even more ridiculous that any of us are here as we are today. Forget about winning the lottery. We already have. For each of us to exist as we do, the odds are just breathtakingly enormous. Whenever I have a bad day–when things don’t go as I want them to–I sometimes think of this. I’m here. I’m breathing. I’m alive. It just as easily could have gone the other way.

ALB: What advice do you have for emerging poets trying to get a collection published?

PH: Hard work and luck go hand-in-hand. Aside from getting individual poems in the manuscript published in nationally recognized literary journals, it’s good to have a chapbook or two under your belt. Enter poetry contests as well. Even if you don’t win first place, your manuscript may be considered for publication. Know the business and start reading your work in public. There’s no magic formula though. Write something every day, and mail something out for publication every day. If you do this you’re likely to find success.

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~ by ericedits on September 16, 2008.

2 Responses to “Interview With a Poet: Patrick Hicks”

  1. […] Turner interview South Dakota poet Patrick Hicks has had an interview with Brian Turner, the acclaimed author of “Here, Bullet,” […]

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  2. […] my previous interviews with each of them for After Long Busyness are here, here and here, […]

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