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I will never forget the moment when Sam Hamill showed me the book Ian Boyden made of his new poem “Habitations” a couple of years ago. It was about a yard high and the cover was made from what looked to be fossilized maple. The pages were all original paintings made by Ian on thick black paper and had stanzas of “Habitations” laser-etched into them. I had never seen anything like it.

The combination of this remarkable poem, totally steeped in Sam’s lifetime dedication to poetry and his long time as resident of Cascadia, was stunning. That the inks were made of exotic materials like fossilized shark teeth and other substances added to the mysterious power this work of art had for me. Sam informed me that there were about ten of these books created, that they were valued at $10,000 per and that, no, they would not take a check from me.

Sam and Ian will discuss their collaboration, “Habitations” and their new effort, “Edible Earth” Saturday at 7:30pm the Spring Street Center at 15th & Spring in Seattle, a block south of Union. This center is also the home of my spiritual community, Subud Greater Seattle, so it is a bit of a coming out party for the house which is available for parties, weddings and other special events and I am the rental agent who shows it to potential renters. This is going to be a memorable evening and I hope to see you Saturday night. It is supported by the Subud International Cultural Association.

SPLAB Presents: Sam Hamill with Ian Boyden
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Admission Free (Donations accepted)








Spring Street Center
1101 15th Avenue (15th & Spring)
Seattle, WA 98122
Co-Sponsors include: SICA (Subud International Cultural Association)

Ian Boyden will give a presentation of the two artist books he’s made with Sam: Habitations and Edible Earth. He’ll talk about the ways these books came to be, ideas that coalesced in their making, his contributions to the projects as an artist and bookmaker, and some thoughts about collaboration. Sam Hamill will read from his new chapbook Border Songs published by Word Palace Press ( and, perhaps, from Habitations. This event is presented by SPLAB in association with SICA, the Subud International Cultural Association.

Sam Hamill is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press, where he edited and printed for 32 years while writing more than forty volumes of poetry, essays, and celebrated translations from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Latin, and Estonian. In January 2003, declining an invitation to the Bush White House, he founded Poets Against The War, compiling the largest single-theme anthology in all of history—30,000 poems by 26,000 poets—now archived at Ohio State University. His most recent books include Border Songs (Word Palace Press), Almost Paradise: Selected Poems and Translations (Shambhala Publications) and Measured by Stone (Curbstone Press). “Sam Hamill has reached the category of a National Treasure, though I doubt he’d like the idea.” —Jim Harrison “The shape of Sam Hamill’s mind is the shape of both a revolutionary and a monk at work. His sacred text is poetry.” —Terry Tempest Williams “No one—I mean no one ever—has done the momentous work of presenting poetry better than Sam Hamill… [his poetry] is no less than essential.” —Hayden Carruth


Ian Boyden is an artist and writer currently working in the Blue Mountains southeast of Walla Walla, Washington. Boyden’s practice, in both his paintings and books, displays a fundamental drive to link the literary, material, and visual imagination. He makes his own paints and inks from unusual materials such as meteorites, shark teeth, and freshwater pearls. He often works in collaboration with other writers, artists, and scientists. His work has been exhibited widely and is found in many public collections including Reed College, the Portland Art Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Suzhou Museum. Website:

Edible Earth


Border Song

For Esteban Moore
Sometimes I like to read
the poets of the borderlands,
some in English, some to wrestle
slowly from their native tongue,
my scant Spanish failing at each turn,
the gists and piths of poetry.

There are images, there are tones,
that cross the rivers
of time and space and cultural bounds
to touch the heart of one
who struggles in the journey.
Poetry is made from flesh and bone.

What is a nation, what is our song,
and what is a man, a woman, but
a tear and a smile, un abrazo fuerte
por favor, tender and temporal,
wine in the cup, a song in the ear,
when the struggle itself is everything.

It is what we know and what
we have to work with—bare hands,
dreams that restore
big hungry hearts and minds
made whole by what we share:
mi pane, mi agua, mi canto amor.

Children of the Marketplace

They come out of nowhere, the sad-eyed
pleading children of the streets, they come
bearing shoplifted socks, small notebooks,
pens, anything, even just a card that pleads
for change, a peso so they can eat.

From our lunch spot under the grand
acacia trees, we say, “No, gracias,” wondering
if a coin encourages thievery or whether
any of them will ever learn to read.
Or we make a gift of some small change
when one rushes to open the door
of a cab we’ve flagged. “No, gracias,”
to the old woman selling wilting roses
on the street, wondering what life
has she whose children learned to pick
a pocket, to moan for some relief
in a world without regrets, a world of need.

We watch a pregnant girl drag her heavy cart
through busy traffic on the street,
sorting through the trash—salvaging
old cardboard, plastic bottles, a board,
a brick, old newsprint, almost anything
that ordinary trash provides. Her work
is hard, her face a mask of grief
the marketplace can’t hide.

In Seattle’s Pioneer Square, it’s a wrinkled face
asking for a dollar for the newspaper
of the homeless, news of that other marketplace
where human life, degraded or self-abused,
comes cheap, and dignity and hope
are long forgotten dreams.

It’s the same in Caracas, Mumbai,
New York City or Saigon. The world is one.
Who knows what’s wrong or right,
whose coin will go for suicidal wine
and whose for mercy in a shelter for the night?
The young, the old, for them there is
no sense of time, no past remembered,
no thought of what tomorrow brings.
The marketplace is full of things.

A Visitation

I wake suddenly, in the middle of the night,
and realize I’m stroking the pillow beside me,
dreaming of my wife who is six months dead.

I rise and brush my teeth and pour a stiff drink
and go out into the garden to sit
on the old iron bench and think.

It’s after midnight and the moon is almost full.
And after a long silence, I hear, faintly,
a woman’s heels’ chink, chink, chink,

against the ancient cobblestone
beyond the garden wall
as she makes her way down the street.