The Penmen Profile: Poet and Author Judson Hamilton

By Pamme Boutselis

Judson-HamiltonJudson Hamilton lives in Wroclaw, Poland. He is the author of three chapbooks: “Celebrity Slumbers” (Cervena Barva Press) and two out from Greying Ghost Press, “No Rainbow” and “Black Box.” Most recently, he has published a novella, “The Sugar Numbers,” with Black Scat Books.

Have you always written?
I’ve written, in fits and starts, since I was about 15 years old, but really didn’t get serious about it until I moved to Poland in 2003. 

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
Atmosphere has always been the starting point for me – characters and a story trajectory tend to grow out of that.

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them?
Not so many these days, aside from finding the time. When I was first getting started in college I had a problem just letting it flow. I was overly critical of myself and was unable to generate much material. To overcome that, I spent some time just writing out everything that had happened to me that day in a kind of stream-of-consciousness style. Later I adopted the tactic of filling up notebooks and then strip-mining them of the gems – a practice that has stood me in good stead.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
I’ve been very lucky in that regard. The first poems I sent out got accepted in various ‘zines and online journals and that encouraged me to put together a chapbook, which in turn found a publisher right away. Later I published two more chapbooks and most recently a novella with various short stories and poems in between. Of course I was rejected many times (the novella was turned down 23 times), but that’s just part of the process and you can’t let it get you down. Onward through the fog!

How do you market your work?
The publishers have all been really helpful at marketing the books. I shy away from social media and the like, which in this day and age is the way most people network a small press book.

Who are the writers that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
Wow, a tough question because it changes over the years and someone who may have been a big influence on me once upon a time may not mean so much to me any more. Having said that: Pynchon and Gaddis were both huge for me in college – they showed me what a book could do; that the scale could be greater than I’d ever imagined. Nabokov and Amis showed me what a sentence could do; just how much meaning it could carry. Ted Hughes’ “Gaudete” showed me what narrative poems could do. Hrabal, Krasznahorkai, Nicola Barker, Tom McCarthy – the list is endless…

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
Even tougher! An old hardback edition of “The Count of Monte Cristo” my wife bought me in Berlin when we first met – both for sentimental reasons and because it’s such an enjoyable read. “Watership Down,” because reading it is like sinking into a warm bath, and “The Once and Future King,” which transports me instantly back to childhood.

Judson Hamilton can be reached at [email protected]