Daily Video

April 30, 2009

Poet Reflects Auto Industry Woes and Unemployment

How are artists reacting to the current economic situation?

Poet Bob Hicok was born and raised in Michigan, worked in factories and once owned an automotive die design business there before becoming a professor at Virginia Tech. His poetry reflects on the economic hardships suffered in his home state.

His poem, “In These Times,” Hicok reflects on unemployment in a small town and its affects on families and communities.


My sister’s out of work and my brother’s

out of work and my other brother’s

out of work, these are facts available

over the phone or in person, just as now,

three clouds travel north, one

above another, smallish, amoeba shaped,

and the bottom cloud just died,

and the top two have joined forces

and left me to fend for myself

under a new sky.

Warm Up Questions

1. How might the health of the economy affect a poet?

2. The heart of the American car industry, Michigan, has been hit hard by the decline of General Motors and Chrysler. How might this affect artists living there?

Discussion Questions

1. What images or words from Bob Hicok’s poem stood out for you?

2. What does this poem say about the current economic state in America?

3. Did this poem feel familiar to you or distant? Why?

4. How would you find out if there are any poets in your community? See if there are any performances or books, and then talk to the poet about if and how the economy has changed their perspective.

Additional Resources

Transcript of this interview

NewsHour Poetry Series

Great Depression Poetry (Poetry Foundation)

Download this Video

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