Sam Hamill in Paris

I like to think of him as the Dean of Southern Cascadia poets. If you’ve been watching Sam Hamill’s Facebook feed, you know he’s having a blast in Paris right now and would prefer a life outside of Cascadia. Here is a typical post:

6.23.16 - Sam Hamill Pines for Paris

Sure, the near-constant gray for months is a factor, but with Sam it is more the unrelenting North American neoliberal culture that is driving him over the edge. Neoliberalism is the de facto religion for much of this continent.

On June 21, the Chinook Observer published an article that is a great primer on Sam Hamill, going into his earliest memory as a child and into his impact as a editor, translator, Zen practitioner and poet. Here’s how it starts:

6.21.16 - Sam in ParisSometimes the words come freely,

sometimes we sit in silence, gnawing on a brush.

—Sam Hamill, translated from Lu Chi

In Utah, the nice farm lady picked up a rascally small boy from the orphanage and told him, “Your father has a dog for you.” When three-year-old Sam Hamill got out of the car, he looked up and down a tall skinny guy with a dog and said, “That’s not my father and that’s not my dog,” establishing definitively and for all time his beingness in the world.

As Sam now says, “I have a BS detector with no off switch.” This has been, as most gifts from the Gods, both a blessing and a curse… READ MORE

And the feeling he gets from France (& South America, and many places outside the U.S.) is that of a beloved elder poet as described in this paragraph from the article:

The reading took place on Parisian cobblestones under stormy skies. I can’t help but note that poetry has a veritable place of honor in the hearts of Europeans. Being a poet is not a career choice, it’s a calling that requires sacrifice of body, mind and spirit. Sam’s devotion to literature and the social justice values he has lived by — his dedication to stopping violence of any kind, whether domestic or state-sanctioned — is celebrated in many parts of the world. Sam lives a solo, contemplative life in Anacortes overlooking the Salish Sea. But here, surrounded by friends, he is a hero.

Can culture in Cascadia resist the emptiness of the wealthy brogrammers who are forcing rents up in places like Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco? Though San Fran is not in Cascadia, its poetry and culture has often informed sister cities further north. Bravo Chinook Observer and Bravo Brother Poet & Mentor Sam Hamill.

About Paul Nelson

Poet/interviewer Paul Nelson founded SPLAB & the Cascadia Poetry Festival, published: American Sentences (Apprentice House 2015); A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (essay, Lumme Editions, Brazil, 2013).
He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Sam Hamill, José Kozer, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Joanne Kyger, George Bowering, Brenda Hillman and Daphne Marlatt, presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai & Beijing, China, and published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster and Hambone. Awarded The Capilano Review’s 2014 Robin Blaser Award, he writes an American Sentence every day.

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