Cleveland State University Poetry Center

The Hartford Book by Sam Amadon



The Hartford Book
Samuel Amadon

In Samuel Amadon's intense, second collection, a sequence of meditative and darkly comic postmodern narratives about what it is like to be from Hartford, Connecticut, we stagger with the speaker down the streets of his still-present past, together with a motley cast of crackheads, liars, scoundrels, and unlikely heroes. "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.



Check out this interview with Samuel Amadon from New Books in Poetry!

Congratulations to Samuel Amadon for THE HARTFORD BOOK making this year's Editor's Shortlist for The Believer Poetry Award!

The Volta Review

Poetry Daily

The Hartford Book by Samuel Amadon is reviewed at Publishers Weekly

Samuel Amadon read's "Wells" from his new collection The Hartford Book

A great new review of Samuel Amadon's THE HARTFORD BOOK is up at Rain Taxi!



Samuel Amadon is the author of the poetry collection Like a Sea (Iowa, 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.


In Bushnell Park there are only a couple

of statues & while I knew

who Minerva was I wasn’t sure

about Horace Wells & I wanted

to know because the plaque underneath

him says The Discoverer of

something I couldn’t see & I didn’t

think anyone in Hartford

had ever discovered anything except

for guns & drugs & when I looked

him up I found out I was

right because the thing Horace Wells

discovered was anesthesia at some

kind of show where

a bunch of people inhaled nitrous

on stage & then ran around like idiots

& when one of them hurt his leg

he kept running & seemed to feel

nothing & Wells who was a dentist

thought maybe he could use this

so he got some nitrous & put himself

under & had a tooth pulled without

any pain, which he thought

would make him famous so he went

to Boston to put on an exhibition

& called someone out

of the crowd to go under but

the man didn’t breathe from the bag

long enough & felt

Wells pull & screamed & everyone

heard it & no one else would volunteer

& no one wanted to believe

Wells except for William Morton

who stole the idea using ether instead

of nitrous & got patients

& patents & a job at Harvard & maybe

Wells never knew it but credit in the books

goes to Morton or maybe he did

know it because Wells sold his practice

& left his wife & went to New York

where he went mad & went to jail

for throwing sulfuric acid at prostitutes

& in his cell inhaled chloroform from

a rag & cut open his groin vein

& died & the only people now who think

he discovered anything are some people

in Hartford who can’t read

the sign & probably don’t care what it is.


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