In many poetry circles Payden Hamms is considered a heroic figure. While a lesser-known presence in the greater global community, his influence is immeasurable yet subtle, his soft stanzas an antidote to the gushy slobber of many of his hoity toity peers and alleged, namby pamby successors.
Born in Hindsmart, Georgia in 1940, Hamms personifies what is now known as the Peach Pit Poet School. Not many poets can claim to have both drank whiskey and terpin hydrate with Gregory Corso while also being invited to help fix a kitchen cabinet door in then-President Jimmy Carter’s chapel room in the White House.
Erudite, raw, tanned, and well versed in carpentry and card tricks, Hamms exemplifies the past, present, and future of American Poetry. “I make my own game, play by my own rules, and by God I cheat. But somehow I still always lose,” says Hamms, of a life that cries out for both greater academic study and cinematic exaltation by way of a gritty biopic. In 2001, actor Sam Elliot had optioned the rights to Hamms’ story but as of press time the film’s production has since languished.
Evoking the terse imagist verse of William Wantling or the even the onomatopoeia of a beer-besotted Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hamms is a treasure waiting to be discovered in a world where true verse seems heading for endangerment, if not extinction.
His works include Shortening Bread, Lightning Quick (1953), Radha Paducah Jai Joe (1966), In Moonlight Now – No Need of Flashlight: Selected Letters & Telegrams (1988), and These Computers Will Change Everything…But a Man’s Love (1993).
Hamms currently lives in an undisclosed location in Southeast Georgia, “somewhere between Woodbine and Brunswick.”
We here at The Squealer are honored to celebrate this vizier of poetics to our many readers.
Daniel A. Brown
I WENT OUTSIDE TO PICK A FIGHT WITH THE MOON
I went outside to pick a fight with the moon,
Any moon would do.
But I’ll settle for the one here on earth,
It’s been bullying me since my four-day birth.
This is what nine beers can do to a man,
Watch me fight cracking open this tenth warm can.
Moon moon! I kicked your ass!
Even thought it’s me laying bloodied in the grass.
Ain’t got time to gloat and lurch,
In three more hours I’m singing at church.
© Payden Hamms
I READ SOME OF THAT BHAGGYVAD GITA
I read some of that Bhaggyvad Gita,
I got it from that gal at the Pic N Shop.
You know, the droopy quiet one,
That poor girl Rita.
It started out with two fellers in a chariot,
“Oh, it’s like ‘Ben-Hur'” was precisely what I said.
And boy was I mistaken,
With each page I read.
I know one of them Beatles,
He liked it much.
And probably Oprah, Reba,
Hollywood folks and such.
But when I see chariots, I want swords and togas,
And not some blue fool yakking on about some yogas.
© Payden Hamms
THE POLICE MAN PULLED HIS GUN SOFTLY
The Police Man pulled his gun softly,
A mere misunderstanding on both sides.
“These chickens were running free, why’d you pull a gun on me?”
He then called me “sir,” and was polite.
How I did not wish to die that night.
I could’ve handled painful salmonella,
But not a gun fired from that officer fella.
Cooler heads prevailed,
Dropping hens, I backed away.
But wouldn’t you know,
Before I could go,
That cop killed me anyway!
And since I’ve been here I’ve met Jesus,
And have rejoined with Ma and Pa.
But well, well, well, look who I see.
Walking through the gates all pearly.
That very cop, who put a stop,
To my chicken stealing life so early.
This is the ending part of this poem.
© Payden Hamms