"The requirement of our lives is the form of our art." Diane De Prima in her lectures located in the Naropa Institute Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Archives.
WHO AM I?
My name is Jamie Lee Hamann and the following collection of poetry was written by my pen. Where did I come from? Where are we going?
In the Beginning
Gardnerville Nevada had as many sagebrush back in 1983 as it does now. The desert doesn't seem to change even though my old room has been turned into a spare room and I have aged.
A lot of things happened in that little room at my parents house. I read as many science fiction novels that I could digest and spent more time lying on my bed reading than rolling around in the desert dirt.
My mom always kept a well stocked library in the house and I remember above anything else the smells of old books. To this day a book will activate my Jacobsen's Organ and a smile will automatically grow on my face.
Sometimes I would peek into my moms vast collection of books, past the Agatha Christies, and past the 70's self help books, and into my mothers collection of classics. I started to read Dickens and kinda had a love affair with the moody Russian authors like Dosteovsky and Tolstoy.
There was a day that changed everything. I had picked up a collection of T.S. Eliot and bought a paperback of Dylan Thomas. I did not understand why or what exactly I was reading but a passionate romance blossomed not only for the poets and their poems but for the mystery behind this style of writing.
I began to journal and wrote thousands of pages of journal entries. Mostly books I had read, math equations I had discovered, but mixed in with everything was about a poem a day. All my poems written free verse, I had no idea what rhythm or meter was and all my poems were filled with angst and crazy daydreams about monsters.
In High School I joined our Drama Club and fell in love with Greek Tragedy, Shakespeare, and Samuel Beckett. I could not get enough and read and reread and memorized as much as I could. I wanted to be a Shakespearean actor in Ashland Oregon.
When I went to the University of Montana Missoula to pursue this goal I failed, due to a looming alcohol and drug problem that has haunted me throughout my life. During my stay in Missoula I was able to take a Traditional Prosody class taught by Patricia Goedecke and wrote a few poems, most lost.
During my stay in Missoula I had a vision at the University library. I had checked out the old copy of T.S. Eliot's Collected Poems and a copy of Dylan Thomas and was reading the poems that I remembered loving so well when T.S. Eliot looked up at me through the sleeve cover, put down his pipe, and said "join us."
I probably had too much to drink the night before and I may have misinterpretated his message. I did not start to write more, I only started to drink more, thinking that this lifestyle was the lifestyle of poets everywhere.
I drank my way through the military and one day found myself out of the military. I had lost my dream of acting and writing and had found a job in Medical Science.
During this time I found the Ash Canyon Poets, a group of poets located in Carson City Nevada, that would gather and share poems every Friday night.
I began to write again and finished a collection entitled "A Rhapsody of Static." A few of those poems sit silently in my collection.
I found my passion again and held tight this time. I performed poetry readings and wrote a poem a week.
I also read as many books about the art of poetry I could find. I was a sponge and took in as much as I could. It seemed though that nothing came close to solving the mystery of why poems are poems and why are they written the way they are.
I needed answers and got none. Once again I was led into a couple years of heavy drinking and forgot my search losing most of the poems I had written and gaining a degree.
To make a long story short I moved back to Reno Nevada found my wife, quit drinking, and started to raise a family.
And Where Does One Go?
I was contemplating summer yesterday. I tried to remember the definition of summer by backing up into a time when the process of defining things was my primary drive. This probably equates to the moments in childhood I remember the most or the time we lived in the town of Tahoma, CA.
Three blocks away and down a steep street, where I would ride my skateboard at breakneck speeds, was Lake Tahoe. Directly behind our house was a forest of Pinion Pine and Manzanita. In the forest I did most of my defining.
I would wake up about seven o'clock in the morning to grab a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk. Then after breakfast, which I clearly remember as being of utmost importance, I would sprint out the front door.
The first thing I remember was the family of squirrels that lived humbly on our front porch. They were gracious squirrels that avoided our German Shepherd Nanooks food. They vigilantly nibbled on their own grub that they had handpicked earlier, enjoying the comfort of our front porch shade.
The master of our front porch seemed to be the large blackbird that nested in the pine tree located directly north a few paces. Throughout the day the blackbird would casually walk from one end of the porch to the other stealing Nanooks food and threatening the squirrels. That bird was the warrior bird.
These lessons were minor compared to the lessons learned when I hit the Manzanita bushes. The Manzanita bushes required I got on all fours where I had to push the branches away with my thorn scratched hands. I had to crawl under. There was a quite spot centered between two Pinion Pines that seemed to twist itself up into heaven.
I would just sit and think of childish fantasy. I would build worlds with dragons and fair maidens. I would ponder what the script of my next puppet show would be, or the colors that I would paint the rocks I found in my back yard.
Today summer is filled only with these fond memories. I try to remember all the fantasies, and all the scripts. Earlier this summer I took a college course in Painting that motivated me to remember some of the colors I used on my stones.
Lately, I found myself taking an astronomy class. Last semester I finished a year worth of Physics and Calculus and fell in love with Cosmology. The origin of the Universe and all its mathematical complexity induced in me a feeling of awe.
The reason I started Molecular Biology was to find the smallest component of what makes living things. I have realized that particle physics brings us as small as we have been able to go. Somewhere in the depth of the infinitely small is an answer.
While at Gardnerville Middle School I checked out the book titled "Relativity" by Albert Einstein. I liked the equations. I could not understand any of the book or the symbols, but I fell in love with the artistry behind them. I started a journal to discuss the further discoveries of my imagination. I would write pages of nonsensical equations.
Eventually numbers would bore me and I tried to fill equations with words. I found the emotional immediacy of the well-groomed poem.
Summer used to be poetry. Now it has fallen victim to the numbers again. So to find the words I picked up some Pablo Neruda:
Remembering nights, ships, seed times, departed friends, circumstances, bitter hospitals and girls ajar: remembering a wave slapping a certain rock with an adornment of flour and foam, and the life that one leads in certain countries, on certain solitary coasts, a sound of stars in the palm tree, a heartbeat on the windowpanes, a train crossing darkly on cursed wheels and many sad things of this sort.
Once the words came back I could feel the definition of summer coming into focus. I could finally recall the definitions I had made of summer, those cool mornings in the Manzanita bushes and under the Pinion Pine. I could also remember our German Shepherd Nanook following me and hiding in the trees as my protector. Probably from the same villain, the black bird, that had been causing her so much misery.