Poems by Forrest Hamer

Getting Happy

Charlene -n- Booker 4Ever



Forrest Hamer’s first book, Call and Response, winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award for Alice James Books, was published in 1995 and praised for its beauty and delicate truth. A psychologist as well as a poet, his poems are finely wrought tapestries. The Hudson Review called Hamer remarkable for his ability to find the universal in his own experiences with “seeming casualness and ease, and yet [the work] deftly opens deep and complex issues of identity — identity explored in the dimensions of race, family, generation, sex, psychology, and religion.”


Yusef Komunyakaa has lauded Hamer’s ability to translate “everyday feelings” for all of us: “Southern, American, universal—the voices cohere into a seamless, symphonic bravo for human endurance." Mark Doty writes that Hamer courageously stands “in the middle of a stream of family and history.This stream, the masterful technique and flow of his words, showcases a talent both broad and deep, a distance so immense it is yet to be fully measured, one “that marks what I am and what/ you are or life is or I am not of— / I have been keeping these distances” (“Sculpture”).


Partially deaf, Hamer has attuned himself to listen exquisitely, with subterranean depth, to his own voice and others’, and to recount their stories with quiet power. “Becoming a poet,” he once remarked, “was my version of becoming a preacher. The opportunity to in some way lead the call—to engage people literally in a back and forth between speaker and audience, between preacher and congregation—is also the opportunity to engage people in listening closely to an aspect of themselves that is attuned communally and is much more complex than seems at first true.”


Hamer’s poems have been published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Kenyon Review, and ZYZZYVA and other journals. “Getting Happy,” was chosen by Rita Dove for The Best American Poetry 1994. Hamer currently teaches literature at the University of California at Berkeley and maintains a practice in psychology in Oakland, California.





      Poetry Center Reading:  
    Fall 1998