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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)

True Peace

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 posture in the middle of the street.
And they baptized him there with gas
and kerosene, and he struck a match
and burst into flame.

That was June, nineteen-sixty-three,
and I was twenty, a U.S. Marine.

The master did not move, did not squirm,
he did not scream
in pain as his body was consumed.

Neither child nor yet a man,
I wondered to my Okinawan friend,
what can it possibly mean
to make such a sacrifice, to give one's life
with such horror, but with dignity and conviction.
How can any man endure such pain
and never cry and never blink.

And my friend said simply, "Thich Quang Dúc
had achieved true peace."

And I knew that night true peace
for me would never come.
Not for me, Nirvana. This suffering world
is mine, mine to suffer in its grief.

Half a century later, I think
of Bô Tát Thich Quang Dúc,
revered as a bodhisattva now—his lifetime
building temples, teaching peace,
and of his death and the statement that it made.

Like Shelley's, his heart refused to burn,
even when they burned his ashes once again
in the crematorium—his generous heart
turned magically to stone.

What is true peace, I cannot know.
A hundred wars have come and gone
as I've grown old. I bear their burdens in my bones.
Mine's the heart that burns
today, mine the thirst, the hunger in the soul.

Old master, old teacher,
what is it that I've learned?

Copyright © 2012 by Sam Hamill. From Border Songs (Word Palace Press, 2012). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Copyright © 2012 by Sam Hamill. From Border Songs (Word Palace Press, 2012). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill

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

by this poet

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

Late afternoon, autumn equinox,
and my daughter and I
are at the table silently
eating fried eggs and muffins,
sharp cheese, and yesterday’s
rice warmed over. We put
our paper plates in the woodstove
and go outside:
                                 sunlight
fills the

poem

A few small sails, barely moving,
dot Fidalgo Bay. As the sun burns away
the last pale clouds, a confluence
of robins descends to explore
my neighbor’s garden—
brown grass, muddy beds and the last
fading roses of the year.

It is September, the end of summer.
My backyard