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months-mind

John V. Hicks

John Victor Hicks (1907 - 1999) was a Canadian poet. He was born in London, England but his parents immigrated to New Brunswick while he was still an infant. The Hicks family later settled in Montreal where Hicks wrote that he discovered as a boy "the very first whisper of the magic of writing." Although he did not like to travel, Hicks moved to Alberta then to Saskatchewan, and finally settled in Prince Albert where he pursued his profession as an accountant and, over the course of his lifetime, accomplished many artistic achievements.

Hicks began writing poetry in the 1930s; however, he was 71 before he decided to publish his first volume of poetry in 1978. Despite his late start, John Hicks quickly gained distinction in Canadian literary circles and enjoyed part of his "fifteen minutes of fame" as a frequent guest on Peter Gzowski's Morningside on CBC. He was also an active member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and the League of Canadian Poets.

Hicks criticized the vulgarity of modern life and, true to his values, lived modestly. He never owned as television set or a vehicle, preferring to walk, even in the most frigid weather. Behind Hicks' old-fashioned exterior he held a lifelong passion for various forms of literature, J.S. Bach, opera, the Anglican Church, and loved boxing, baseball, model trains -in which he had a small layout in his basement-, pizza and sherry (together of course), as well as dessert of any kind.

For Hicks, poetry and music were undeniably linked. He performed what he considered to be "active worship" as an organist at St. Albans Cathedral for 60 years. It was his intense spirituality that provided Hicks with everlasting inspiration for his poetry. In total, Hicks published nine volumes of poetry that illustrated the difficulties and joys being an artist. His life paralleled that of T. S. Eliot, whom Hicks emulated in his own writing.

Though Hicks never formally taught poetry or music, he participated in afternoon teas at the Prince Albert Arts Centre almost daily where he served as a mentor for aspiring artists. Here, his ability to recognize talent drew many young people to him for a review (or a preview). It was Hicks who encouraged the tenor Jon Vickers to pursue a singing career.

Although Hicks never attended university, he was rewarded for his contributions to the arts with an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from the University of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, a lifetime award for excellence from the Saskatchewan Arts Board and several other praises. John Hicks was appointed Prince Albert Writer-in-Residence in 1978, where he was held in high esteem and was often described as the city's most distinguished living citizen.

Even into his late 80's John continued to live in his home, where neighbors and friends would provide him with food, company, and maid services. Though he never had any children, John never blew off a chance to have a conversation with a youngster.

John Victor Hicks died on June 16, 1999 at 92 years of age. He was married to Marjorie (Kisbey) Hicks, who predeceased him in 1986. A portrait sculpture by Hans Holtkamp can be seen at the Prince Albert Arts Centre.

Works of John Hicks' poetry published by Saskatoon's Thistledown Press:

  • Now Is A Far Country (1978)
  • Writer Your Sleep (1980)
  • Silence Like The Sun (1983)
  • Rootless Tree (1985)
  • Fives and Sixes (1986)
  • ''Sticks and Strings (1986)
  • Months Mind (1992)
  • Overheard by Conifers (1996)
  • Renovated Rhymes (1997)

Note: This profile was taken from the brief profile hung in the Prince Albert Arts Center.

Samples of his work

Autobiography
Say what you like I know
the pebble is part of a mountain
ground to bits by ice years
smoothed by water
buffed by wind
cleansed by memory
beyond all else learning
how to lie still

- from Months Mind (1992), pg. 71

Sculptor
I think of you terrible chipping and chaffing
to extract those creatures out of the earth
exhumed from gravestone quarries
and how your eyes must accuse you when
your chisel rests exhausted and your mallet
lies brutal and unwilling in white dust
flecked with grey and greens like seasons
heaped into one and I fear to be buried
incase I should turn into stone and you expose me
for all I am and was and will be and you set me
to stand in the rain and know the rivulets
falling from me like tears and the summer rain
encasing me to wait for no carol spring no
cold rejuvenation and I tell you in ash tones
put down your power tools and let time be still

- from Overheard by Conifers (1996), pg 49

Note: These samples of his work were also taken from the from the Prince Albert Arts Centre where they are framed along with his brief profile.

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