Poems and Photographs (Blue Horse Press, 2019)
To find the poetic landscape of Justin Hamm you need to “Look off in the direction the weathervane points, past the place where rain raps sideways against the silo,” and suddenly you will find yourself inside the intricate ventricles of the human heart. What a tough beautiful little book of poems and photographs this is—with sublime echoes of Richard Hugo: distant houses, fallowed fields, poems of work and love, signaling the arrival of Hamm as our new clear-eyed and sublime voice of the Midwest
– Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of The Second O of Sorrow
In The Inheritance, Justin Hamm returns with a profound sincerity and vulnerability as he examines the generational pain that families inherit and pass down to one another. Through interrogating this pain, Hamm addresses the complex and conflicting love that accompanies it. “Who do you think / taught my mother / to hit” is juxtaposed with “if I loved you once / for those / bright eyes / I love you more now / for everything / that has made them / a little tired.” But through compassion and tenderness, Hamm breaks this cycle, delivering us to the bucolic and rural landscapes where “the skies [are] now the color of healing bruises.” The Inheritance is a yearning for more careful ways of existing in the world. Hamm sings the song of the ragged and roughshod, the logger and laborer whose lives are often invisible to the larger world and portrays them as makers of history, as redemptive figures who, at the end of the day, want to look out at the “wild flower-prairie / seasoned with primrose.” The coda of photos at the end of this collection serve as an embodiment of the family and landscape in Hamm’s poetry, as well as a reminder of our inheritance as readers—the responsibility to love one another and see beauty where it is often overlooked.
– John McCarthy, author of Scared Violent Like Horses