About this poet

Sam Hamill is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry including Almost Paradise: Selected Poems & Translations (Shambhala, 2005), Dumb Luck (2002), Gratitude (1998), and Destination Zero: Poems 1970-1995 (1995). He has also published three collections of essays, including A Poet’s Work (1998), and two dozen volumes translated from ancient Greek, Latin, Estonian, Japanese, and Chinese, most recently, Tao Te Ching (2005), The Essential Chuang Tzu and The Poetry of Zen (with J.P. Seaton), Narrow Road to the Interior & Other Writings of Basho, and Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese.

He is editor of The Gift of Tongues: Twenty-five Years of Poetry from Copper Canyon Press, The Erotic Spirit, Selected Poems of Thomas McGrath, The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (with Bradford Morrow), and Selected Poems of Hayden Carruth.

Hamill has taught in prisons for fourteen years, in artist-in-residency programs for twenty years, and has worked extensively with battered woman and children. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission, two Washington Governor’s Arts Awards, the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing, and the Washington Poets Association Lifetime Achievement Award for poetry. He co-founded Copper Canyon Press with Tree Swenson and was Editor there from 1972 through 2004. In January 2003, he founded Poets Against War, editing an anthology with the same name, Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003). His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

The Orchid Flower

Sam Hamill
Just as I wonder 
whether it's going to die, 
the orchid blossoms 

and I can't explain why it 
moves my heart, why such pleasure 

comes from one small bud 
on a long spindly stem, one 
blood red gold flower 

opening at mid-summer, 
tiny, perfect in its hour. 

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it's 
purely erotic, 

pistil and stamen, pollen, 
dew of the world, a spoonful 

of earth, and water. 
Erotic because there's death 
at the heart of birth, 

drama in those old sunrise 
prisms in wet cedar boughs, 

deepest mystery 
in washing evening dishes 
or teasing my wife, 

who grows, yes, more beautiful 
because one of us will die.

From Dumb Luck by Sam Hamill, published by BOA Editions. Copyright © 2002 by Sam Hamill. Reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. All rights reserved.

From Dumb Luck by Sam Hamill, published by BOA Editions. Copyright © 2002 by Sam Hamill. Reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. All rights reserved.

Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry including Almost