Distinguished poet and short story writer Janet Hamill is now based in Orange County; but like so many kids reared in the parts of New Jersey where Manhattan floats tantalizingly on the horizon, she grew up thinking of New York City as the ultimate magical destination. And her destiny did lead her there for a number of years of working in bookstores and absorbing the ’60s counterculture, following a stint at Glassboro State College where she fell in love with poetry and became fast friends with the young Patti Smith.
But in time the mystique of the City paled, and more exotic locales beckoned. Hamill relocated to San Francisco in 1970, then took off to wander Europe and Africa for the better part of a year. Returning to New York City to write about her travels, she began performing her poems on the downtown scene and published her first volume of poetry in 1975.
She sustained her friendship with Smith over the years, sometimes doing concerts together, and eventually began adding musical backdrops to her spoken-word performances. Along with two CDs accompanied by the bands Moving Star and Lost Ceiling, Hamill now has five poetry collections under her belt. The most recent, Body of Water (2008), was nominated for the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Prize, and one of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2006.
Somewhere along the way, Hamill started tinkering with prose, inspired by Fabulist authors like Borges and Calvino. Her short stories began appearing in small-press magazines and artsy anthologies. Now she has finally published a collection of them, with a unifying thematic thread of mysterious happenings set in cafés around the world and across the centuries, plus an introduction by Patti Smith. Hamill will be reading from her Tales from the Eternal Café on Friday, March 7 at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz.
Just released on February 1 by Three Rooms Press, the short story collection has already garnered a rave review from Publishers’ Weekly, which you can read at www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-9895125-0-3. The author’s own website can be found at www.janethamill.com. The reading is free and open to the public, and begins at 7 p.m.
Janet Hamill reads from Tales from the Eternal Café, Friday, March 7, 7 p.m., free, Inquiring Minds Bookstore, 6 Church Street, New Paltz; (845) 255-8300, https://inquiringbooks.com/new-paltz-bookstore.