Just as I wonder whether it's going to die, the orchid blossoms and I can't explain why it moves my heart, why such pleasure comes from one small bud on a long spindly stem, one blood red gold flower opening at mid-summer, tiny, perfect in its hour.— Sam Hamill
The most unbelievable Sam Hamill quotes you will be delighted to read
Nothing will change until we demolish the "we-they" mentality.
We are human, and therefore all human concerns are ours. And those concerns are personal.
We're certainly not perfect, and we're not probably even better than anybody else, except that perhaps we are given to certain kinds of contemplation that provide a valuable balance to the knee-jerk reactionary behavior of most of our newspapers and political leaders. Poets are great doubters.
Poetry teaches us things that cannot be learned in prose, such as certain kinds of irony or the importance of the unsaid. The most important element of any poem is the part that is left unsaid. So the poetry frames the experience that lies beyond naming.
It's difficult to put your own bare ass out on the limb every time you sit down to write a poem. But that's really sort of the ideal. Because if we don't discover something about ourselves and our world in the making of a poem, chances are it's not going to be a very good poem. So what I'm saying is that a lot of our best poets could be better poets if they wrote less and risked more in what they do.
We poets don't tend to be certain a lot.
Much of our art is made out of our own uncertainty. And there is a not-knowingness, I think, that leads us back to suffering humanity with a more compassionate vision than most of our politicians have.
The only thing we all agree on, virtually every poet in this country, is that this Administration is really frightening, and we want something done about it.
It would be nice if all the Republicans could put poetry in a little box and put the box under the bed and sit on it, but they can't.
I'll say that this is probably the best time for poetry since the T'ang dynasty.
All the rest of the world is going to school on American poetry in the twentieth century, from Ezra Pound to W. S. Merwin, and for very good reason. We have soaked up influence in the last century like a sponge. It's cross-pollination, first law of biology, that the more variety you have the more health you have.
Poetry transcends the nation-state. Poetry transcends government. It brings the traditional concept of power to its knees. I have always believed poetry to be an eternal conversation in which the ancient poets remain contemporary, a conversation inviting us into other languages and cultures even as poetry transcends language and culture, returning us again and again to primal rhythms and sounds.
Kenneth Rexroth took me under his wing for a brief period.
I was fifteen years old, and I was smoking a lot of heroin and trying to be cool, man, and I really loved poetry. And Kenneth convinced me that destroying myself was not really the best possible solution, and that I needed to look at the world's literature, and not just my own life, in order to be hip, if you will. So he had a huge influence on what became of me thereafter.
I got interested in Zen when I was a teenage beatnik on the streets of San Francisco. And it was my interest in Zen, in part, that got me into the Marine Corps, because that was a ticket to Asia. So I spent a couple of years on Okinawa and began reading and thinking about how I wanted to go about conducting my life.
The oldest cliché in the world is about "what's lost in translation," but you don't very often read much intelligent about what's gained by translation, and the answer is everything. Our language is a compendium of translation.
Sometimes people come up and they get infatuated with some little brief imagistic poem or something, and they say, "Oh, I really like your Zen poems." And I say, "Which ones are not Zen poems?"
I would say that my great political awakening was really born on Okinawa, reading Albert Camus: the "Neither Victims nor Executioners" essay and The Rebel. I was an eighteen-year-old kid. I hated myself. I hated my life. I thought nobody wanted me.
I'm basically a poetry scholar, and I'm happier here in my studio with my row of Chinese dictionaries than I am, frankly, at Lincoln Center.
Most of the ugly wars in history have been wars of religion.
And there's nothing more dangerous than someone with religious certitude who creates consequences in the world that to me are simply inexcusable.
Poets should speak out against what we see as the assault against our Constitution and the warmongering that's going on. I'm perfectly willing to lay down my life for my Constitution, but I am not willing to take a life for it or any other reason because I think killing people is counterproductive.
What poetry does above all else is develop sensibility.
And that's what makes poetry so dangerous. That's why poetry is so good at undermining governments and so bad at building them. There's nothing harder to organize than a group of poets.
I'm a poet who practices Zen. And it's not, I'm somebody who practices Zen who writes poetry. There's no separation for me.
There's a fragment that goes, "Some say the most beautiful thing in the world is a great cavalry riding down over the hill. Others say it's a vast infantry on the march. But I say the most beautiful thing is the beloved." How political can you get?
All I'd ever heard my entire life in my family was, "Nobody wanted you, and we took you in." When you get that into your head at a tender age, you really feel like you are an unlovable human being, and then you behave like one. That's exactly what I had done. It took me many years to deal with my own violence and find my own niche.
I think a lot of American poets are swimming-pool Soviets.
A lot of them have taken the comfortable, self-protective route too often. I know that I certainly have. That's easy to do.
Korea's first Zen Master-poet wrote simple yet elegant poetry of the world he inhabited, both physically and spiritually, and of daily insights-a pause along the way for a deep clear breath, a moon-viewing moment, a seasonal note or a farewell poem to a departing monk. His poems speak softly and clearly, like hearing a temple bell that was struck a thousand years ago.
Each of us as poets, as decent suffering human beings, has to find a way to run our lives that is compassionate toward one another and toward our environment.
I was a violent, self-destructive teenager, who was adopted right at the end of World War II. I was lied to and abused by my parents. I hated life in Utah. I resented the Mormon Church, its sense of superiority and its certitude. I escaped through the Beat writers and discovered poetry and have devoted my entire life to the practice of poetry in varying ways. Poetry gave me a reason for being. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that.
I haven't seen any poet in this country behave nearly as rudely as Newt Gingrich or Bill O'Reilly. I'm not asking these people to approve of everyone's manners. I don't feel obliged to defend the manners of every poet who submits a poem to my web site. That's not my job. My job is to provide them with an opportunity to speak from the heart. If there's not much in the heart and if the mouth is running wild, that's not my problem.
My ethics, my sense of morality, my work ethic, my sense of compassion for suffering humanity, all of that comes directly out of the practice of poetry, as does my Buddhist practice. Poetry is a very important element in the history of Buddhism in general and in Zen in particular. It was really Zen that motivated me to change the way I perceive the world.
That's one of those questions that would just love to have a pat answer.
You know, poetry's job is to make us feel good. Poetry exists to allow us to express our innermost feelings. There isn't one role for poetry in society. There are many roles for poetry. I wrote a poem to seduce my wife. I wrote a poem when I asked her to marry me. Poetry got me laid. Poetry got me married.
Ho Kyuns poetry is in the tradition of his master, the incomparable Tu Fu, while remaining fully his own. Writing nine centuries later, Hos poetry strikes many parallels--the experiences of war and exile and constant struggle-- and his voice is similarly humane. This is rich and enlightening reading.
When these idiot rightwingers start complaining about poetry being political, I'm fond of reciting Sappho to them, who excluded men from her world. Why does she exclude them? Mostly because of their warmongering.
Of course, there are some people who behave rudely.
Allen Ginsberg used to like to get up in public and take his clothes off. I don't do that, but I liked Allen Ginsberg. He was a nice guy.
George W. Bush is using language that's a mirror image of the language of Osama bin Laden when he says, "We have God on our side. This is the struggle of good against evil."