RockSaw Press, 2011 — Sold out (Click here for a free PDF download on Goodreads)
Like the young Midwestern speaker in the piece that gives this collection its title, some of these poems do “shout in every direction,” their words stretching from the Heartland across regions, through time, and even into the realm of fiction to call up everyone from Giotto to Sancho Panza and Woody Guthrie’s mother. Others whisper quietly and poignantly about memory, change, loss, regret. In either case, the audience remains the same. These are poems that speak to the human heart.
Praise for Illinois, My Apologies
“Readers will no doubt be disarmed by Justin Hamm’s dry wit and crisp lyricism, but the real power here is the underlying current of heartfelt narrative, the remarkable balance of sadness and humor, the stark observations of society and self in all their muddy, Midwestern glory.”
“Justin Hamm’s Illinois, My Apologies is a true work of art. With its lyrical wordplay, Hamm’s work is reminiscent of Dylan Thomas’s, but his poems are firmly planted in the fertile soil of the Midwest. This collection is a love song to masculinity and loss, and to a land that doesn’t always love us back, despite its vastness.”
“With poems built of traditional Midwestern speech, plain and direct, Justin Hamm breaks the silence of men and women used to keeping their secrets buried deeply beneath rich soil and thick skins. The speaker of these poems openly defies a reticent masculinity and “scream[s] in every direction,” “weeps for everything/worth weeping for/in a place where weeping/is forbidden.” It is heartening to read these poems that are brave enough to explore “the rich, painful authenticity of life” in a region that works so hard to remain hidden and unspoken.”