Gratitude

Sam Hamill, Author
Sam Hamill, Author BOA Editions $12.5 (134p) ISBN 978-1-880238-65-3
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
""Take away the words/ and there is still poetry"" writes Hamill in his first book of original poetry since 1995's career-summing Destination Zero. The sculpted rhythmic beauty of lines like ""Midwinter, I long/ for the Corinthian sun/ to hear the Greek tongue/ the Mediterranean/ light transparent blue and white"" lend force to such a claim. Unfortunately, Hamill tends more, in the many koan-like poems here, toward making pronouncements than to giving compelling demonstrations, occasionally even lapsing into aphoristic pseudo-profundity: ""If you are the question, you/ must be the answer."" Still, Hamill's valuable work as a translator and publisher resonates in these highly allusive poems. He addresses poems to, and calls on inspiration of, American poets like Kenneth Rexroth, Hayden Carruth and Gary Snyder, and twentieth-century Greek virtuosi, such as Cavafy, Seferis, and Elytis. Even more prominent are masters of the Chinese and Japanese traditions, many of whom Hamill has translated. Their influence can seem incongruous when juxtaposed with Western themes (as when Hamill praises the modern Greeks for offering ""a Way which to follow,"" or, in mourning Elytis's death, observes that ""the little garden Buddha/ wears a robe of moss""), but it also produces some of Hamill's finest work. The gentle ""For Kyra Gray O'Daly"" reads in its entirety ""Yellow maple leaves/ are already falling through/ baby Kyra's tears."" (Aug.) FYI: Hamill co-founded the nonprofit, all-poetry Copper Canyon Press in 1972.
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