Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Food Chain of Language

Interesting article from ther Roanoke Times here on Bob Hicok's poem from APR--

The latest issue of the American Poetry Review includes a poem by Virginia Tech English professor Bob Hicok entitled "So I Know."

The poem -- one of five Hicok wrote for the issue -- is an unflinching and pained look at Hicok's thoughts about shooter Seung-Hui Cho and the professor's feelings of guilt for not doing something to stop his former student.

Part of the poem reads:

"I don't know what I could have done
something. Something more than talk to someone
who talked to someone, a food chain of language
leading to this language of 'no words' we have now.
Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33."

While a student in Hicok's class in spring 2006, Cho wrote a play about a student who plans a mass school shooting.

Reports say that Hicok was one of several professors in the department to voice concerns about Cho and he took those concerns to department head Lucinda Roy. But Cho was not removed from his class.

Hicok did not return a call Monday to speak about his poem. In the poem he discusses the media attention that has followed him since the shootings and acknowledges that people may feel it's too soon to write a poem about the shootings.


# # # # #
Here's the full poem from APR--

Bob Hicok
So I know


He put moisturizer on the morning he shot
thirty-three people. That stands out. The desire
to be soft. I could tell the guy from NPR
that's what I want, to be soft, or the guy
from the LA Times, or the guy from CNN who says
we should chat. Such a casual word, chat.
I'm chatting to myself now: you did not
do enough about the kid who took your class
a few buildings from where he killed.
With soft hands in Norris Hall killed.
This is my confession. And legs I think
the roommate said, moisturizer in the shower,
I don't know what I could have done
something. Something more than talk to someone
who talked to someone, a food chain of language
leading to this language of "no words" we have now.
Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33.
I was good at math. Numbers are polite, carefree
if you ask the random number generators.
Mom, I don't mean the killing above.
It's something I write like "I put my arms
around the moon." Maybe sorry's the only sound
to offer pointlessly and at random
to each other forever, not because of what it means
but because it means we're trying to mean,
I am trying to mean more than I did
when I started writing this poem, too soon
people will say, so what. This is what I do.
If I don't do this I have no face and if I do this
I have an apple for a face or something vital
almost going forward is the direction I am headed.
Come with me from being over here to being over there,
from this second to that second. What countries
they are, the seconds, what rooms of people
being alive in them and then dead in them.
The clocks of flowers rise, it's April
and yellow and these seconds are an autopsy
of this word,
suddenly.

Bob Hicok

* * * * *


You know, mostly I feel bad for college professors and teachers because they are teachers, not social workers or psychotrists trained in knowing who is a "young angry male" and who desperately needs help. I could never blame any of them for not knowing that a student in their class was about to be a murderer.

They are not mind-readers. They do not know if a story turned in is based on fiction, a young Stephen King in the class, or some sort of forewarning from a disturbed individual.

Who do I blame? The man with the gun. I hold him responsible.

I think our college campuses and communities should have better health care available to all--physical and mental health. I think college campuses should have better emergency responses to contact their students, say text-messages to their cellphones that say "stay off campus (or in your dorms) until further notice." I think universities should make sure that people who need help get help and are followed up on. But do I think it is the responsibility of professors not only to teach the class, but be aware of the mental health status of all 60-600 students in their classes? No.

How can you ever know who is going to snap and who is just having a bad semester, a bad life? It's like trying to locate worm on the inside of an apple, sometimes you can see the small hole on the side very clearly, other times you just don't know until someone takes a bite.

1 comment:

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