"As in Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, the landscape of poverty and drugs seems to grow characters and stories like no other--characters with names such as Brass, Okie, Legend, Hercules, and Joy--characters with maybe-fake cancer, ex-hockey players who like to expose themselves in bars, characters who shoot up water--and then absinthe--while attempting to detox." -- The Believer (Winner -- The Believer Poetry Book Award)
These poems are street-smart, buoyantly lyrical, and they possess something beautiful and permanent at their core. Samuel Amadon does for Hartford what Koch, Schuyler and O'Hara have done for New York City. --Tracy K. Smith
Most poetry written in what might be called the vernacular is evidently a stunt, and we soon weary of such prowess. Sam Amadon has no such self-congratulatory purpose; his speech is helplessly frank in its high and low spirits:My parents thought they d keep me safe / by sticking me in a private school, / but Hartford works its way in no matter / what you learn & this winter / I ve come to know the worst people / the city has in it...
The poet is one of them, and suffers as much as any chronicler since Clough for his own pathetic (even ghastly) powers of presence: this is not memoir, it is confession, the speaker is on the rack and only timidly aware of the torture he cannot help wreaking. Our poetry will never be the same now Amadon has spoken, our language can be entirely different. Happily for us. --Richard Howard
Mesmerizing as well as desperate, a wild-eyed tour of a lesser hell. Amadon claims these poems are almost entirely true - if so, God help him, the truth has been transformed into poetry. Sam Amadon - even his name (like Jack Kerouac) is a song. Sing it. --Nick Flynn
Hartford has proved to be a continuing inspiration to poets, though the city of Amadon's second collection is a very different place from that of Wallace Stevens. My mother says Asylum Avenue s/ the wrong place to start, begins one early poem, because the neighborhood s still// too nice which makes me think/ my mother hasn't been/ paying attention and doesn't know// what drug dealers look like. In this plainspoken, youthful, but wearily cynical voice, Amadon (Like a Sea
) offers a tour of Hartford s underbelly, street by street (many poems are titled with street names), where drugs, too little money, painful family lives, and his troubled post college roommate Kenny ( when// Kenny told me he loved me I told him to hold still/ because I had to dab a napkin at/ the cut in his scalp where our friend// Sully had stabbed him minutes before ) make it hard to imagine things getting much better. While the poems do have a sameness of voice and texture to them, this book depicts a life that s anything but enviable but mostly intoxicating to watch over Amadons shoulder; we feel as he comes to finally feel about Kenny: the truth is I never/ wanted him to get sober like nobody/ really wants any of us to get sober/ they just want to take/ the scarier ride one time & be gone. Reviewed on: 04/23/2012 --Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Samuel Amadon is the author of the poetry collection Like a Sea
(University Of Iowa Press, 2010). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review
, A Public Space
, Boston Review
, DENVER QUARTERLY, Tin House
, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He lives in Houston.