Early in Patti Smith’s Just Kids I read, “My compatriot from college, Janet Hamill, bolstered my morale,” and I thought, “Hey, I’ve met Janet Hamill! She’s part of the Warwick Poetry Posse.” Now, to be fair, there is no Warwick Poetry Posse, save in my imagination. Along with Bill Seaton and others Janet has created the College of Poetry, which offers workshops and readings in Warwick. Yet Janet keeps cropping up in Just Kids as a lifelong friend. For her side, I’m now reading her latest collection, Body of Water, which includes photos by Patti Smith and a poem “for Patti on her 60th birthday” about a pair of “sparkling blue tango shoes” from Argentina that Patti once gave her as a gift, “looking for treasures to stock the hold of my heart/and in return this poem.“ Maybe it’s my mood these days, but friendships seem so fragile over time that it’s heartening to learn about one that has lasted more than forty years. Plus, I’m learning about Janet’s accomplishments, which include books, paintings, and spoken word CDs done with musicians. Just Kids impressed me with its passion for Rimbaud. As luck would have it, Janet recently published her own homage in the Malpais Review. The poem describes Rimbaud getting drunk with friends at the cafe L’Univers in his hometown of Charleville for the final time before he quit his writing life at the age of 21 to become eventually a successful merchant in Africa. Ironically, Rimbaud did such a good job of leaving these friendships behind that more than a decade later when his cafe compatriots began promoting him as a genius they assumed he was dead.
You wear a ball on your shoulders….of which
it was composed. Unaccountably. Into
thin air it goes. Spinning on a spout of fire-water
I spit out there in the lead. Land and sea
emblazoned on a blue print. The preamble to my heart
O Seasons! Bookshelves can’t accommodate the leagues
I travel. Fore-and-aft. Sails and rigging
caught in slow motion in the clouds. Rail lines linking
white hot continents where fevers fester in the bones
even as I sit here. O Castles! The equator has my neck
in a noose. So get drunk! Be sloppy! To hell
with the stains on your shirt fronts. Tell them
I shot you while the constellations of my wounded boots
swam the crystal prisms of a glass of wine.