Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly"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.
Poems that "let the song arise as it will," while showing that we must "learn to revise the life."
Library JournalHamill, an editor, translator, essayist, and winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, directs the Port Townsend, WA, Writers Conference and is the publisher of Copper Canyon Press. First and foremost, however, Hamill is a poet, and in this new collection he weaves Buddhism into the fabric of most of the poems. Hamill has previously published translations of poems from Chinese and Japanese, and here he honors these poets, some with new translations (from Ryokan: "Dawn, the shrine under silver snow,/ trees flower white on the grounds") and others with bows to the style, the simplicity inherent in Asian Buddhist poetry ("After you bathed/ and powdered/ and went away:/ your cool wet towel/ against my burning face"). Hamill is at his best when writing in the small voice of solitude and quiet and less effective in poems that seem to be prose arranged in poemlike line form. Several poems are in the form of letters to fellow poets; for instance, to Denise Levertov he writes, "And you give me and give me that/ which I didn't know I had." A cohesive, sensitive collection; recommended. [For another facet of Hamill's talent, see his translation of The Essential Teachings of Chuang Tzu, reviewed on p. 100.--Ed.].--Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
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