"Faces do a funny little dance when you say you're a poet, unless you're telling another poet," says Bob Hicok. "It's almost like saying, 'I have eczema.'" Hicok's works have found a more appreciative audience. Since his first book of poems, Bearing Witness, was published in 1991, Hicok's stories of average lives, uncomfortable realities, and moments of transcendence have won many awards, including the Pollak Prize in 1995 for The Legend of Light and the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry in 2008 for This Clumsy Living. His poems have been published in The Southern Review, The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, and The American Poetry Review, and anthologized in The Best American Poetry. Born in the heart of the car manufacturing world of southern Michigan, Hicok worked in the automotive die design industry for 20 years, eventually starting his own company to design car parts. He left the auto industry to take a teaching job at Western Michigan University, and he currently teaches at Virginia Tech.
"Calling him back from layoff" dramatizes a moment in the lives of two people dealing with the economic downturn, something Hicok describes this way: "We hear the unemployment figures pretty commonly now about Michigan. It's kind of the poster child for the trouble we're going through. But the way that that shows up in people's lives, even though we hear those stories, to have a more intimate connection to them shows you just what it means to lose a home, to lose a job, to have to move back in with your folks. These are things that people had no expectation of ever having to deal with. And I would say people are substantially floundering."