Poetry News

Poet & Copper Canyon Co-Founder Sam Hamill Dies at 74

By Harriet Staff
Sam Hamill

We are saddened to announce that poet and translator Sam Hamill, founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, passed away on the evening of April 14, 2018, at his home in Anacortes, Washington after a series of health complications. More, from Copper Canyon's release:

Hamill co-founded Copper Canyon Press in 1972 and fostered the growth of poets in many stages of their careers. In his 1996 introduction to The Gift of Tongues: Twenty-Five Years of Poetry From Copper Canyon Press, he wrote, “I had made a commitment to poetry, to a life centered in poetry, when I had returned to college following four years in the Marine Corps in the early sixties.” Hamill’s commitment to poetry never waivered, even though “it was clear from the beginning that such a life would be labor-intensive [and] would mean poverty of all but spirit.”

“During his many years at Copper Canyon Press, Sam was a fierce advocate for poets and poetry. Copper Canyon would not be what it is today without his influence,” remarks Michael Wiegers, Editor-In-Chief of Copper Canyon Press. In addition to his work at Copper Canyon, Hamill initiated the Poets Against War movement in 2003, which he set up in response to the Iraq War. Hamill was invited to to a poetry symposium at the Bush-era White House and rather than declining the invitation as a way of expressing his opposition to the war, he solicited anti-war verse from poets across the country and made plans to present those submissions at the event. The White House canceled the event.

“Through his advocacy, social consciousness, political engagement, and acts of resistance, he set a model that Press still engages today. He was a passionate defender of those he loved, and had a determined, yet open mind when it came to new discoveries. Sam was a mentor, friend, and model for living with a great commitment to poetry,” says Wiegers.

Hamill left Copper Canyon Press in 2004, and continued to write and read poetry. He is the author and translator of numerous poetry collections and has edited an impressive number of anthologies. Hamill's most recent collection, Habitation: Collected Poems (2014, University of Washington Press), presents some of Hamill's best poems, spanning a career of over 40 years. His poetry has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Hamill has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon Fund, and has won the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing and the Washington Poets Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

“In co-founding Copper Canyon Press, which he helped lead for over thirty years, he did much to open the poetic imagination of this country, its writing, reading, and publishing by others,” said Rick Simonson, an original Copper Canyon Press board member. “The poetry world has lost a great advocate,” Wiegers states. Hamill is survived by his daughter, Eron Hamill, of British Columbia.

Our condolences to Hamill's colleagues, friends, and family.

Originally Published: April 16th, 2018