” . . . some of most authentic poetry you will ever read. . . [Hamm’s] imagery tugs the reader into dreamscapes that reflect, with humor and love, the cultural and actual landscapes of the Midwest.”
The Columbia Daily Tribune
“If you like wonderfully accessible and openly human poetry, Lessons in Ruin is the book for you. And it is if you like humor, too, and Huck Finn-like tales from childhood. And even if you don’t like the reality of common stuff like rust, “that impressionist painter,” you will because rusty old barns, as we are convincingly shown, are “of all things . . . holiest.
And then, at the very end of the book, there is a poem called “God,” disguised metaphorically as a carpenter shaping a neighbor’s new deck, something the poet couldn’t imagine building himself. But that’s, in fact, just what Justin Hamm has done in this generous book, bringing together “in reconciliation” both generations and geography, knowing that “ruined things stow away inside/ a stout magic of forgiveness.”
Bruce Guernsey, author of From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010 and former editor of The Spoon River Poetry Review
“Justin Hamm examines a Midwestern life from boyhood to fatherhood and invites us to explore our preconceptions of a place and people whose actual character is more varied and surprising than coastal notions would indicate. Alienating agricreatures roam the fields. Sancho Panza visits and takes the poet as his squire. With sensibility and vulnerability, Hamm’s poems alternate between gritty lives and songs that contemplate, for example, the holiness of rust and the correct wording necessary to resurrect. The rich, decaying heartland he evokes leaves the reader to wonder whether this land, for all its fruitfulness and abundance, might not need us after all.”
Michael Walsh, author of The Dirt Riddles and winner of the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize