Call and Response
Call and Response
1995 Beatrice Hawley Award
“His poetry moves with seeming casualness and ease, and yet it deftly opens deep and complex issues of identity — identity explored in the dimensions of race, family, generation, sex, psychology, and religion . . . [an] impressive first book.”
—The Hudson Review
Available in print.
In addition to Call & Response (Alice James Books, 1995), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award; Forrest Hamer is the author of Middle Ear (Roundhouse, 2000), winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award. His work has appeared in many journals, and has been anthologized in Poet’s Choice: Poems for Everyday Life, The Geography of Home: California’s Poetry of Place, Making Callaloo: 25 Years of Black Literature, and the 1994 and 2000 editions of The Best American Poetry. He has received fellowships from the California Arts Council and the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.
“Precise and controlled, these poems have wit and intelligence: they are never sentimental or arch. Empathy and love pervade them: one feels throughout them that father, mother, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles, grandparents and elder, and ancestors have equal claims to be heard. And this, far from being a burden, is the source of the poems’ great wisdom: for if all these souls in the continuum of souls have a right to be heard, so does the son and poet.”
—American Book Review
“Forrest Hamer’s Call & Response is a tightly woven tapestry of impulses and life rituals, a tribute to what keeps us whole and true to human complexity. In essence, this wonderful collection is about bridges: between cultures, individuals, gender, parts of oneself, human beings and nature, family, etc.
There’s an interior-exterior odyssey here. Hamer isn’t afraid of those everyday feelings. His best poems are calls into our modern wilderness that demand heartfelt responses; they are challenges to us to connect through the acceptance of our personal and public histories.
Call and Response unearths myths with such fluidity, we don’t realize that we’ve been transported to a place where we can earn transcendence. Southern, American, universal—the voices cohere into a seamless, symphonic bravo for human endurance. Seldom do we witness such a poetic surety in a first book. Each of Hamer’s poems resonates, adding to the collection’s overall lucidity.
There isn’t any grandstanding or pyrotechnics. Call and Response delivers its quiet punch, and the images echo back to us again and again.”
“Forrest Hamer’s poems rise out of the places where religion and dancing—spirit and body—join, and in reading Call and Response ‘We are journeying to the source of all wonder,/ We journey by dance. Amen.’ Amen! We call in celebration. Amen!”
“Forrest Hamer’s first book makes a joyful noise with poems like ‘Getting happy’ and ‘My luck,’ a complex, difficult noise with poems like ‘Ordinary fidelity’ and ‘Lesson,’ a sorrowful noise with poems ‘Without John’ and ‘Last respects.’ Sample these poems, or any of the ‘Goldsboro narratives,’ or poems like ‘Down by the riverside,’ ‘Resurrection,’ ‘A boy doesn’t know’ or ‘Slave song,’ and see for yourself, its gospel music, its madness and magic, its will to survive in the bold downbeat of the heart. Listen. This is an important, true, and necessary voice.”
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