OYO, The Beautiful River: An Environmental Narrative in Two Parts
poems by Mark B. Hamilton
OYO, The Beautiful River is environmental literature, a book-length sequence of lyric narratives written from a journey down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois, in a fifteen-foot rowing dory. It explores the vulnerability of identity and relationships within this oftentimes polluted and quickly changing place we call home, our nation, this world. A theme of reciprocity develops between self and river, between the human and the elemental, and honors the First Nations with a belief that justice and compassion are the appropriate and inevitable outcomes to the respect we give to the Earth.
POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Nature
ISBN: 978-1-951651-37-4 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Discovering Home introduces Mark Hamilton's trek along the entire Lewis and Clark route, on their approximate time-table, traveling as they did by paddle and pack mule—a 3-year, 8000-mile journey. This 38-minute video offers an overview of Mark's arrival at the Pacific Ocean, and then encapsulates his return from the Pacific Ocean back to St. Louis, Missouri, presenting the contemporary environments of rivers, mountains, and prairies in the six months from March to September 2000. Mark Hamilton is perhaps the only living person to have accomplished the entire Lewis and Clark route, on their approximate time-table, traveling as they did by paddle and pack mule. Recognized by the National Park Service, Fort Clatsop, Oregon, for his east to west journey, May to July 1995 (Ohio River), November and December 1997 (Mississippi River), and April 1998 to November 1999 (Camp Dubois to Fort Clatsop), this return west to east solo trek was completed between March 23 and September 28, 2000 (Fort Clatsop to St. Louis).
The video is highly recommended by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, and by Lillian Pethtel, historian, journalist, botanist, and First Nations activist, Kamiah, Idaho.
Mark B. Hamilton is perhaps the only living person to have traced the entire Lewis and Clark Expedition route on their approximate time-table, traveling as they did by paddle and pack mule, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the Pacific Ocean, and the return to St. Louis, Missouri—a 3-year, 8,000-mile journey. Honored in recognition by the National Park Service, his efforts in this field continue with research and writings centered on cultural environmental values.
He has been a shipwright, English professor, editor, and caseworker for Children and Youth Services. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in the small town of North Granby, he attended university at Miami, San Diego, and Missoula, earning the MFA in poetry with extensive work in literature and American studies from the Writers Workshop, University of Montana.
His poetry has won state and national awards, being published widely in the US, and abroad in the UK, Japan, Greece, Germany, and Austria. Select honors include: a Matthew Hansen Endowment for Wilderness Studies, the National Panhandler Chapbook Award, a National Poetry Anthology Contest Award, an Indiana State National Endowment for the Arts for Visiting Artists, an Indiana Governor’s Award, and two Colorado Annual Poetry Awards, along with a readership at the American Antiquarian Society, and literary fellowships at UCROSS and the Center for Art & Ecology.
“Mark B. Hamilton’s astonishing new full-length collection, OYO The Beautiful River, is a meditation on nature, the environment, and humanity. The poet reminds us that ‘Time follows like a hound, / like a scent in the wind / in the bushes rushing past,’ and with ‘Hidden Voices’ ‘The river clears out debris, sifting / and digesting, washing pollutants away.’ However, the poet also warns the reader that ‘Factories will seem warm, even friendly; / flare stacks will be graceful under the billows of vapor, / those thin blankets that cover the land; / while children half-asleep will hear their parents / going off to work in little clouds of muffler smoke. / It will be the storm, and the coming of the storm.’ It is Hamilton’s deft skill that anchors the reader to each line throughout penetrating and wondrous landscapes.”
“You’ve written beautifully about . . . a wonderful adventure.”
“The natural world as seen from a rowboat—close up, beneath us, and all around—achieves a stunning presence in this simple, straightforward poem, made all the more effective by way of its uncontrived diction, brilliant imagery, and a certain sense of understatement connecting the reader to something undeniably spiritual.”
“ . . . a keen eye and a wise voice . . . a major text to American environmental literature and poetry.”
“Mark Hamilton is Lewis & Clark’s Homer, and [OYO] is the first part of his own odyssey in their resilient wake. The log of his river trip, temarkably told in trenchant verse, is a wail and a love song to the mighty, diminished, yet still seductive OYO, the great drainage that would become Ohio. Of all the Lewisian & Clarkian that flowed from their bicentennial in its torrent, this epic poem is the single most compelling piece to me—a personal response and refraction that leaves me more than eager for the next part. Westward, ho!”
Watch Mark Hamilton's presentation at the 2021 Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE)—The Art of Eco-Poetry: Strengthening Our Response to Environmental Crisis
Erica Goss, “Review,” Sticks & Stones, August 2, 2021.
Greg Bem, "Review," Rain Taxi, Summer 2021.
Mary Catherine Harper.,"Where Poetry Meets Reality: A Review Essay," Midamerica: The Yearbook of The Society for The Study of Midwest Literature,Volume XLVII, 2020: 113-21.
Jeffery Moser, “OYO, The Beautiful River, by Mark B. Hamilton,” The Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, Volume 74, Number 2, 2020: 228-30.
Jane Manaster, “OYO, the Beautiful River: An environmental narrative in two parts,” Seattle Book Review, December 2020
Frank Grant, “OYO, The Beautiful River: A Review,” Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, November 10, 2020.
Lauren Frick, “Book Review: OYO The Beautiful River,” EcoLit Books, August 10, 2020
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