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About this poet

Sam Hamill was born in 1943 and raised in Utah. He attended the University of California–Santa Barbara, where he served as the editor of the university’s literary magazine. In 1972, with money from a prize he was awarded for editorial excellence, he cofounded Copper Canyon Press along with Tree Swenson and William O’Daly.

The following year, Hamill published his first poetry collection, Heroes of the Teton Mythos (Copper Canyon Press, 1973). He went on to write numerous books of poetry, including After Morning Rain (Tiger Bark Press), published posthumously in 2018; Habitation: Collected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2014); Destination Zero: Poems 1970-1995 (White Pine Press, 1995); and Triada (Copper Canyon Press, 1978).

Hamill also published four books of literary prose, including A Poet’s Work: The Other Side of Poetry (Broken Moon Press, 1990), and many works of translation, including Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (Shambhala Publications, 2005) and Matsuo Bashō’s Narrow Road to the Interior (Shambhala Publications, 1998). He edited several volumes of poetry as well, including The Gift of Tongues: Twenty-five Years of Poetry from Copper Canyon Press (Copper Canyon Press, 1996).

About Hamill, Hayden Carruth wrote, “No one—I mean no one—has done the momentous work of presenting poetry better than Sam Hamill. His editing and publishing, his criticism and translations, his own very strong and beautiful poems have been making a difference in American culture for many years.”

Hamill served as the editor of Copper Canyon Press from 1972 until 2004. In 2003, he began Poets Against the War, a movement of poets protesting the invasion of Iraq, and edited an anthology of the same name, Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003). He also served as the director of the Port Townsend Writer’s Conference for ten years.

Hamill received numerous honors and awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission, as well as the First Amendment Award from PEN USA, the Stanley Lindberg Award for lifetime achievement in editing, and two Washington Governor’s Arts Awards, among others. He died in Anacortes, Washington, on April 14, 2018. 


Bibliography

Poetry
After Morning Rain (Tiger Bark Press, 2018)
Habitation: Collected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2014)
Measured by Stone (Curbstone Press, 2007)
Almost Paradise: Selected Poems & Translations (Shambhala Publications, 2005)
Dumb Luck (BOA Editions, 2002)
Gratitude (BOA Editions, 1998)
Destination Zero: Poems 1970-1995 (White Pine Press, 1995)
Mandala (Milkweed Editions, 1991)
A Dragon in the Clouds: Poems and Translations (Broken Moon Press, 1989)
Nootka Rose (Breitenbush Books, 1987)
Fatal Pleasure (Breitenbush Books, 1984)
Requiem (Copper Canyon Press, 1983)
Animae (Copper Canyon Press, 1980)
Triada (Copper Canyon Press, 1978)
The Calling Across Forever (Copper Canyon Press, 1976)
Uintah Blue (Copper Canyon Press, 1975)
Heroes of the Teton Mythos (Copper Canyon Press, 1973)

Prose
A Poet’s Work: The Other Side of Poetry (Broken Moon Press, 1990)
At Home in the World (Jawbone Press, 1981)

Of Cascadia

I came here nearly forty years ago,
broke and half broken, having chosen
the mud, the dirt road, alder pollen and
a hundred avenues of gray across the sky
to be my teachers and my muses.
I chose a temple made of words and made a vow.

I scratched a life in hardpan. If I cried
for mercy or cried out in delight,
it was because I was a man choosing
carefully his way and his words, growing
as slowly as the trunks of cedars
in the sunlit garden.

Let the ferns and the moss remember
all that I have lost or loved, for I carry
no regrets, no ambition to live it
all again. I can’t make it better
than it’s been or will be again
as the seasons turn and an old man’s heart

turns nostalgic as he sips his wine alone.
I have lived in Cascadia, no paradise
nor any hell, but both at once and made,
as Elytis said, of the same material.
A poor poet, I studied war and love.
But Cascadia is what I’m of.

From Habitation (Lost Horse Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Sam Hamill. Used with the permission of Eron Hamill.

From Habitation (Lost Horse Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Sam Hamill. Used with the permission of Eron Hamill.

Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill authored fourteen volumes of poetry, including Almost Paradise: Selected Poems & Translations (Shambhala, 2005).

by this poet

poem

What the mouth sings, the soul must learn to forgive.
A rat’s as moral as a monk in the eyes of the real world.
Still, the heart is a river
pouring from itself, a river that cannot be crossed.

It opens on a bay
and turns back upon itself as the tide come sin,
it carries the cry

poem

Although it is midsummer, the great blue heron
holds darkest winter in his hunched shoulders,
those blue-turning-gray clouds
rising over him like a storm from the Pacific.

He stands in the black marsh
more monument than bird, a wizened prophet
returned from a vanished mythology.

poem

Half broken on that smoky night,
hunched over sake in a serviceman's dive
somewhere in Naha, Okinawa,
nearly fifty years ago,

I read of the Saigon Buddhist monks
who stopped the traffic on a downtown
thoroughfare
so their master, Thich Quang Dúc, could take up
the lotus