Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sam Hamill at Unity Temple

It is my great good fortune to know a poet named Charlie Rossiter who lives in Oak Park, IL and runs a monthly Coffeehouse at Unity Temple, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright landmark. The Coffeehouse features mostly but not exclusively poetry. (Next month's feature is a blues singer.) Last night I went down to hear Sam Hamill read and it was outstanding. Hamill is not a household name, but well known amongst poets. If his name is unfamiliar to you, I am happy to make the introduction. Among other distinctions, he founded Poets Against War. Here is one sample of what he read last night. (I got it from He dedicated it to his wife.

The Orchid Flower

by Sam Hamill

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.

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it's
purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, pollen,
dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth, and water.
Erotic because there's death
at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.

In addition to hearing Hamill's moving and provocative poetry, it is always a delight to visit Unity Temple, one of Wright's most important buildings. It never fails to impress me no matter how many times I go there. In addition to hosting the Coffeehouse on the third saturday of each month, Charlie has a wonderful website called PoetryPoetry where you can hear poets read their work.

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