Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.

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Sam Hamill

59 years old
Port Townsend, WA

Sam Hamill is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry including Dumb Luck (BOA Editions, 2002), Gratitude (1998), and Destination Zero: Poems 1970-1995 (1995), which won a Pushcart Prize; three collections of essays; and two dozen volumes translated from ancient Greek, Latin, Estonian, Japanese, and Chinese, most recently, Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese (2000), Narrow Road to the Interior & Other Writings of Basho (1999), and The Essential Chuang Tzu (1998).  He is editor of The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (2002, with Bradford Morrow), The Gift of Tongues: Twenty-five Years of Poetry from Copper Canyon Press (1996), (1995), and Selected Poems of Thomas McGrath (1988).  Hamill taught in prisons for fourteen years, in artist-in-residency programs for twenty years, and has worked extensively with battered woman and children.  He has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Fund, the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission, and two Washington Governor's Arts Awards.  He is a co-founder of Copper Canyon Press and director of the Port Townsend Writers' Conference.  Hamill currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.


State of the Union, 2003

I have not been to Jerusalem,
but Shirley talks about the bombs.
I have no god, but have seen the children praying
for it to stop. They pray to different gods.
The news is all old news again, repeated
like a bad habit, cheap tobacco, the social lie.

The children have seen so much death
that death means nothing to them now.
They wait in line for bread.
They wait in line for water.
Their eyes are black moons reflecting emptiness.
We've seen them a thousand times.

Soon, the President will speak.
He will have something to say about bombs
and freedom and our way of life.
I will turn the tv off. I always do.
Because I can't bear to look
at the monuments in his eyes.


Sheepherder Coffee

I used to like sheepherder coffee,
a cup of grounds in my old enameled pot,
then three cups of water and a fire,

and when it's hot, boiling into froth,
a half cup of cold water
to bring the grounds to the bottom.

It was strong and bitter and good
as I squatted on the riverbank,
under the great redwoods, all those years ago.

Some days, it was nearly all I got.
I was happy with my dog,
and cases of books in my funky truck.

But when I think of that posture now,
I can't help but think
of Palestinians huddled in their ruins,

the Afghan shepherd with his bleating goats,
the widow weeping, sending off her sons,
the Tibetan monk who can't go home.

There are fewer names for coffee
than for love. Squatting, they drink,
thinking, waiting for whatever comes.




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