Philip Hammial
(USA, 1937)   
Philip Hammial

Martin Duwell recently commented in Jacket that the ‘keynote’ to Philip Hammial’s work is energy. “On the crudest level it takes a lot of energy to sustain a nineteen book career in a generally blasé literary culture like Australia’s. But at a more significant level, energy is what animates the poems. They have a life and intensity that makes them crackle for the reader despite the inevitable frustrations of our ‘irritable search after meaning’.” Moving from touches of French surrealism to the anti-poetry of James Tate, Hammial’s work has been relentless, tireless and consistent in its idiosyncratic narration of the scrutiny of self and community perversely refracted through the lens of poetry. Aggression, love, humour and an unforgiving honesty form part of the energy to Hammial’s work, which though often overlooked in anthologies of Australian poetry has nevertheless formed a vital current in Australian poetry since the 1970s.

Philip Hammial grew up in and around Detroit, Michigan, where he spent his teenage years getting into serious trouble, a juvenile delinquent with too much imagination for his own good. After three years in the engine rooms of US Navy ships he went to Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan, and then to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he ‘discovered’ poetry, art, philosophy and history. Graduating with honours in English Literature and Philosophy in 1963, he went on to travel the world for a total of ten years, visiting seventy-four countries and working in three – Denmark, England and Greece.

In 1972 he arrived in Sydney on a tourist visa and nine months later was granted a residents visa. He is now an Australian citizen, married with one child, a daughter born in 1997, and has been living in the Blue Mountains since 1994. He has published twenty collections of poetry, one of prose and is the editor of 25 poetes australiens, an anthology published in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and Paris. He is also the editor (with Ulli Beier and Rudy Krausmann) of the seminal Outsider Art in Australia. As the director of The Australian Collection of Outsider Art, he has curated or helped to organize twenty-six exhibitions of Australian Outsider Art – in Australia, Germany, France, Belgium and the US. In 1979 he became the editor of Island Press. Possibly the oldest small press in Australia still publishing poetry, Island was founded in 1970 by Philip Roberts and has published forty-seven titles to date. Hammial is also an artist. He has had thirty-three solo exhibitions and his work has been included in seventy group exhibitions.
Two of his poetry collections were short-listed for the Kenneth Slessor Prize – Bread in 2001 and In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter’s Children in 2004. He has represented Australia at four overseas poetry festivals – Poetry Africa 2000 in Durban, South Africa; the Festival Franco-Anglais de Poesie, Paris, 2000; The World Festival of Poets, Tokyo, 2000 and the Festival International de la Poesie, Trois Rivieres, Quebec, 2004. In 2001 he had a one month writer-in-residency at the Fundacion Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain.

A member of the Woodford Bush Fire Brigade between 1995 and 2003, Hammial fought many of the fires that raged through the Blue Mountains during those years. An environmental and human rights activist, he has worked as a volunteer for the Wilderness Society and for the Free Tibet Action Group.

© Michael Brennan (Introduction); Biographical information (from the author).

Footfalls & Notes, The Saturday Centre, Sydney, 1976.
Chemical Cart, Island Press, Sydney, 1977.
Mastication Poems, The Saturday Centre, Sydney, 1977.
Hear Me Eating, Makar Press, Brisbane, 1977.
More Bath, Less Water, Red Press, Sydney, 1978.
Swarm, Island Press, Sydney, 1979.
Squeeze, Island Press, Sydney, 1965.
Vehicles (with Anthony Mannix), Island Press, Sydney, 1985.
Pell Mell, Black Lightning Press, Wentworth Falls NSW, 1988.
Travel/Writing (with Ania Walwicz), Angus & Robertson,
   Sydney, 1989.
With One Skin Less, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1994.
Just Desserts, Island Press Co-operative, Woodford NSW, 1995.
Black Market (in The Wild Life), Penguin, Melbourne, 1996.
Bread, Black Pepper, Melbourne, 2000.
Auto One, Vagabond Press, Sydney, 2000.
In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter’s Children, Island
   Press Co-operative, Woodford, NSW, 2003.
Swan Song, Picaro Press, Warners Bay NSW, 2005.
Voodoo Realities, Island Press Co-operative, Woodford NSW, 2005.
Sugar Hits, Island Press Co-operative, Woodford NSW, 2006.
Juggernaut, Island Press Co-operative, Woodford NSW, 2007.

As editor
Outsider Art in Australia (co-editor), Aspect, Sydney, 1989.
25 poetes australiens (editor), Ecrits des Forges, Quebec, 2006.

John Hawke reviews In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter's Children in Jacket (English):

Adam Aitken reviews In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter's Children in Cordite (English):
Martin Duwell reviews Sugar Hits in Jacket (English)

Pam Brown 'engages' with Voodoo Realities in Galatea Resurrects (English):
Selection of reviews on APRIL (English):
Three poems by Hammial in Jacket (English):



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