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Almost Paradise: New and Selected Poems and Translations

Overview

Sam Hamill is that rare figure whose life is continually in dialogue with the rich and diverse tradition of poetry, whether that dialogue takes the form of translating the work of a poet long dead, writing a poem in celebration of the work of a contemporary poet, or musing on what it means to be a poet himself. A true poet's poet—and also the founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, one of the most influential publishers of poetry today—Hamill has been part of America's poetry scene for decades and has won ...
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Overview

Sam Hamill is that rare figure whose life is continually in dialogue with the rich and diverse tradition of poetry, whether that dialogue takes the form of translating the work of a poet long dead, writing a poem in celebration of the work of a contemporary poet, or musing on what it means to be a poet himself. A true poet's poet—and also the founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, one of the most influential publishers of poetry today—Hamill has been part of America's poetry scene for decades and has won numerous prizes and awards for his work. This collection presents the best of Hamill's work from his thirteen books of original poetry and from his numerous critically acclaimed works of translation, as well as a number of new, previously unpublished poems.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The goal of Hamill's poetry is a transparency of word and continuum, of subject and setting forth, an immediacy and clarity of line like that of fine calligraphy or of classical Zen brush painting. His poetry has only now begun to be accorded the attention it deserves."—W. S. Merwin

"No one—I mean no one ever—has done the momentous work of presenting poetry better than Sam Hamill. His editing and publishing, his criticism and translations, his own very strong and beautiful poems have been making a difference in American culture for many years. What a wealth of accomplishment! This book, this selection of his poems and translations is no less than essential."—Hayden Carruth

"Sam Hamill is one of the most disturbing poets of our time. In Almost Paradise he finds his voice both in his own strong work and his intensely powerful translations. I've followed Hamill's work closely now for a couple of decades and my admiration continues to increase."—Jim Harrison

"Exquisite renderings of the paradoxes that encircle us."—Terry Tempest Williams

"Sam Hamill's Almost Paradise is the accounting of a life of extraordinary breadth and passion. Hamill's work—clear and resonant, muscularly and musically felt—is the speaking of a poet of a specific and precise place, whose place is also the world. The poems emerging from his life in the Pacific Northwest bring the reader news from a world you can see, hear, eat, be rained on or warmed by. Poems conversing with other writers traverse as native ground the terrain of ancient Greece, Japan, China, and also the entire liberated and engaged line of American poetics. Hamill is a writer unabashedly taking his place within the community of literature and the community of all sentient beings—his fidelity is to the magnificent truth of existence, and to its commensurate singing."—Jane Hirshfield

Publishers Weekly
Coming on the heels of the Poets Against the War anthology and Web site effort, and of Hamill's stepping-down as the founding editor of Copper Canyon press, this valedictory volume feels perfectly timed. It includes work from 13 collections, as well as new poems, and a variety of translations from Chinese and Japanese classics. Hamill is at his best working in a minimal style inflected by his reading: "Each act of affection a lesson:/ I fail, but with each lesson, learn.// Like studying/ under Te-Shan:// Thirty blows if I can't answer;/ thirty blows if I can." The translations, which open the book, include work from Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Wang Wei, as well as Issa, Ryokan and Basho. One of them, a short verse by Saigyo (1118-1190), sums up the book as a whole: "The mind is all sky/ the heart utterly empty,/ and the perfect moon/ is completely transparent/ entering western mountains." (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590301845
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/12/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Hamill has translated more than two dozen books from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Latin, and Estonian. He has published fourteen volumes of original poetry. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon Fund. He was awarded the Decoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Venezuela, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry from Washington Poets Association, and the PEN American Freedom to Write Award. He cofounded and served as Editor at Copper Canyon Press for thirty-two years and is the Director of Poets Against War.
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Table of Contents

Ancient Greek poets 3
Sappho 3
Anakreon 5
Asklepiados 8
Catullus 10
Chinese poets 13
Lao Tzu 13
Chuang Tzu 18
Lu Chi 21
Wang Wei 26
Li Po 29
Tu Fu 32
Yuan Chen 36
Su Tung-p'o 39
Li Ch'ing-chao 41
Japanese poets 44
Saigyo 44
Ikkyu 47
Basho 49
Buson 56
Ryokan 58
Issa 61
Yosano Akiko 71
Jaan Kaplinski 74
The nets 81
A lover's quarrel 81
Gnostology 85
A cold fire 87
To Kevin, who mourns 88
To John Logan from La Push 88
Natural history 89
Kah Tai Purgatorio 91
Requiem 92
George Seferis in Sonora 104
Hellenic triptych 107
A word for spring 109
Reading Seferis 110
Old bones 113
Black marsh eclogue 114
A dragon in the clouds 115
The gift of tongues 116
"True illumination is habitude" 117
Historical romance 119
Seated figure 127
Dresden cattle 127
Blue monody 128
Getting it wrong again 146
Scrutability 147
Lifer 148
Two pines 148
Mountains and rivers without end 149
Ten thousand sutras 149
Kannon 151
Destination zero 151
What the water knows 165
Three stitches 166
To Gary Snyder 166
To Adrienne Rich 170
After Coltrane's "I'll get by" 173
Seattle spring 173
"One who studies the past ..." 174
To Hayden Carruth 174
Sisyphus 182
To Hayden Carruth on his eightieth birthday 185
To Bill and Kris 186
Song and dance 189
Weasel, crow, and coyote on the Dharma trail 191
Why crows are noisy 192
Rising 192
Lost in translation 194
To W. S. Merwin 195
In memoriam, Morris Graves 197
For Kyra Gray O'Daly 199
All here 199
Midsummer 199
Seducing the sparrow 201
New math 202
The orchid flower 203
Organic form 204
Little epic elegy 204
Not meaning, but being 205
A woodsplitter's meditation 206
To Amy, before her wedding 208
Reply to T'ao Ch'ien 210
The goldfinch 210
Strawberry picking 211
To Yoshinaga Sayuri 211
The New York poem 213
State of the union, 2003 215
Poem in the margins of the Shoyo Roku 216
Elegy 216
Nothing quite so cold 217
Sheepherder coffee 218
Summer rain 218
On being asked about retirement 220
"Praise a fool and make him useful" 221
A Pisan canto 222
After a winter of grieving 255
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