Sam Hamill’s Last Reading + Elegy

Dean of NW poets, Sam Hamill died on Saturday, April 14, 2018, at 6:04pm at his home in Anacortes, Washington. I last saw Sam on Thursday and Friday, April 5 & 6. We shared saké one last time and when he was about to read poems from his upcoming book, After Morning Rain, to Judith Roche, his daughter Eron and I, I grabbed my trusty IC Recorder and captured the moment with Sam’s approval. I believe it was the last time he read his poems out loud.

Sam and Eron talk about his Parents

Sam reads poems from After Morning Rain.

The book launch for After Morning Rain is May 15, 2018, in Anacortes, with longtime Sam collaborator Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, the shakuhachi flute master.

Here is my first elegy for Sam, written the day after he died, written after Li Po, from Sam’s translation:


Washington Post obituary.

Seattle Times obituary.

New York Times obituary.

About Splabman

Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) in Seattle, the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the August POetry POstcard Fest (PoPo). He has published a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and American Sentences, a book of 17 syllable poems drawn from the first fourteen of his 20 years of daily practice. The tenth anniversary edition of that book includes Pig War: & Other Songs of Cascadia. He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets (see: has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Bothell, Cumberland, BC, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois, Ukiah, CA, and other places & writes an American Sentence every day.
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2 Responses to Sam Hamill’s Last Reading + Elegy

  1. Jennifer Preston Chushcoff says:

    A beautiful tribute, Paul. My heart aches for the loss of this great poet. At least we have Sam’s voice and wisdom written down in books, etched into our hearts. I retreated to a cabin to write and paint. The two books of poems I brought along are the collected works of Neruda and Sam’s, Habitation.

  2. Sara Bingham says:

    Thank you so much for posting the Sam Hamill reading. In particular, the last lines resonate with me: “What right have I to be happy
    And what right not to be?”

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