Sam Hamill’s Last Book

After Morning Rain will be released tomorrow (Tuesday, May 15, 2018.) It is the last book by renowned poet, translator, editor and founder of Copper Canyon Press, Sam Hamill and there will be a launch at his house in Anacortes, Washington, starting at 3pm.

Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, the internationally-known Shakuhachi flute master will perform. He collaborated with Sam on many occasions, including November 1, 2014, about which I wrote this post, which includes a link to sound from that evening.

The book itself is quintessential Hamill, with allusions to ancient Chinese and other world poets (Lorca, Sappho, Gwendolyn Brooks), memories of travel in Buenos Aires, Paris and elsewhere and poems about getting old. He’s at his best when there are zen-like moments of inspiration, such as in:


Only the fish who leaps
sees the moon on the water.


To Margaret, the Librarian

It was a librarian
who first showed me
how to properly

open a book.
The rest

is all my fault.

You can hear him read that poem and one other from the new book here. 

Chris Yohmei Blasdel

There will be saké and Sam stories, flute music, copies of the new book and a gathering of the Friends of Sam. During his recent memorial, also at his house, those who knew Sam best gathered — not in the living room with a view of the bay and Mt. Baker, but around the dining room table where they’d spent many nights with Sam, listening to country music, drinking too much saké and hearing Sam pontificate on the ills of the world (ecocide, &c.) and/or poetry, maybe a story about Denise Levertov, or another one of Sam’s many life friends.

(Photo by Ian Boyden)

But the post-Hamill era has begun and if there was any doubt about that, the display at his memorial of the glass jar of what was left of Sam’s vertebrae after his cremation, and his ashes divided up into small, round, elegant containers for his friends and loved ones to bury in a special place, or make into objects of art, these items made things painfully clear, Sam’s gone and there will never be another poet and human quite like him.

SPLAB is working on plans to create an edition of the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Anacortes that would be dedicated to his memory and if you have interest in making that a reality, please get in touch.

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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4 Responses to Sam Hamill’s Last Book

  1. Julie drake says:

    Yes to a Cascades poetry festival in Anacortes!

  2. Karma Tenzing Wangchuk says:

    Thanks for your words about Sam. They help.

  3. Splabman says:

    Julie, we are planning something more along the lines of a retreat in May 2019 in Anacortes, because the economic model is much more achievable. Stay tuned. Karma, good to see you last week. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Karma Tenzing Wangchuk says:

    Looking forward to the May memorial and reunion. Have felt Sam’s absence deeply, but remain so grateful for his presence over the years and especially toward the ‘end.’ Thanks again, Paul.

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