Poems and Photographs (2017, Kelsay Books/Aldrich Press)
In American Ephemeral, Justin Hamm chases down a vanishing americana of trailer parks and pick-up graveyards with a ‘boozy conviction’ born of the blues. Not just any blues—but that ‘certain kind of blues music’ Dylan refers to in liner notes for The Basement Tapes, where you ‘can sit down and play it…you may have to lean forward a little.’ And Hamm does just that, leans—‘battered house Martin’ in hand—camera in hand too—for this book includes a resonant counterpoint of black and white photographs that illuminate and extend the rust in these landscapes and their evaporating edges. These fine poems and photos are portraits ‘framed in barnwood’—of willing ghosts and of a poet willing to thread his voice with theirs before that ‘big dark leap into the empty’.
~ Dennis Hinrichsen, author of Skin Music
Justin Hamm’s second collection of poems, American Ephemeral, lets loose those gorgeously–sad truths we swore to forget as we got farther down the road from them; yet, Hamm shows us there’s no escape because Buried so deep when the dust is finally blown off/ they can only imagine it a fiction that never existed at all. The narrator of these soul- folk poems atomizes us, exposing the viscera to our character, desire, and duty. The familial, the unowned miles of physical and mental highway, and the starkness of Hamm’s inner-voice are juxtaposed with a man whose transformed into the broke-open wildness of a boy set free to play within the subconscious neighborhood of life and death. The real-deal language, the gristly voices, and the mystic illustrations mesh in a measured-Midwestern-chaos. These poems call for how to redefine home and all those things that haunt us, but even more, these poems claim the haunted living amongst us—the souls nicknamed ghosts. This collection is an unsuspecting, raucous, Saturday-cruise down that interstate you’ve always wanted to travel, but never took the time too. NOW is your time!
~ Curtis L. Crisler, author of Don’t Moan So
Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquariumand
Justin Hamm’s American Ephemeral eloquently investigates the vastness within each human heart. Hamm implores us to lie in the grass, flat on our backs, and stare into the big skies of the Midwest, to enter this uniquely American mythos where cowboys, ham sandwiches, jalopies, and ghosts appear on every corner. Hamm sits us behind the wheel and as the AM radio plays a generic tune, we drive toward the death of a mother and the birth of a daughter at once. He states: “…all the seats / are filled for only God / knows how much longer.” And it’s true—these poems, and photographs, are of archival quality—almost a stay against oblivion. Of all that gleams in American Ephemeral, the impermanence of Hamm’s artistry is its most indelible and intoxicating quality.
~ Sandra Marchetti, author of Confluence and Sight Line