Local poet publishes second book

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Though she didn’t start writing poetry until after retirement, Ann Hammond has made up for lost time and has recently published her second book of poems.

More than a decade after she started writing in earnest, the former physical education and creative movement teacher made the discovery that she is a natural when it comes to mining her own experiences and turning them into poetry.

“After I retired, I decided that I wanted a passion, and writing became that for me,” Ms. Hammond said.

At 72, Ms. Hammond has found a way to explore that passion in her life, which is reflected in the book, “Hear the Kingfisher: New Poems by Ann Hammond.” On Saturday, she will be reading selections from the new self-published volume at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

Most of Ms. Hammond’s work draws mainly from her vivid memories of childhood experiences during World War II in England when she and her mother, Elizabeth, and brother, Martyn, fled from town to town to escape the Blitz. On Friday, she said that the title poem, “Now Hear the Kingfisher,” matches words to her experiences as a child during the war.

Focusing on a specific time when she was caught out on her bicycle with a broken chain during an air raid, in the poem Ms. Hammond describes her feelings of fear, exasperation, and eventual relief at making it home safely.

Another theme Ms. Hammond frequently explores in her work is her love of travel. The daughter of a sea captain, Sydney, Ms. Hammond has cruised around the globe including to ports of call on such far-flung shores as Africa and China. The former athletic coach, 
who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, also reported that she has traveled around 
the world with the U.S. Field Hockey team.

“I am an enormous free spirit and at sea I am a very happy person,” said Ms. Hammond. She added that even though she is at an age when some might slow down, she still thinks of herself as an adventurer at heart. “Inside I’m like a young child … I forget my age until I look in the mirror.

At the age of 58 Ms. Hammond, who became an American citizen in 1972 and has lived in the Hamptons since 1974, decided to immerse herself in all forms of prose; memoir, screen writing, stream-of-consciousness and creative writing.

Looking back, she marveled at how living in the United States allowed her to pursue a second career, and a passion for writing that she didn’t even know she had.

“It’s wonderful in America that you can still go back and study as an adult,” she said. “I was very grateful to go back to being a student here.”

Ms. Hammond said that her love of writing was a surprise to her because she was never that good in English as a schoolgirl. “I failed English in the second grade … I was one of the worst spellers in school,” she said.

But one of her teachers, who went on to become a great mentor, according to Ms. Hammond, was Sag Harbor-based writer Barbara Wersba. It was Ms. Wersba who helped point the aspiring poet in the right direction.

“She told me, ‘You are a poet, that is your golden vein,’” Ms. Hammond said of her teacher. So she began to turn her work into poems.

Another major influence on Ms. Hammond has been poet, lecturer and memoirist Molly Peacock, with whom she has studied for the last nine years. “Molly is this enormous mentor and guide for me,” Ms. Hammond said of her teacher. “She is so sensitive and positive and I’m grateful for having people like her in my life.”

Summing up the skill of her student and the perspective that her maturity brings, Ms. Peacock praised Ms. Hammond in an afterword of her first book, “Ann Hammond: Selected Poems.”

“To become a poet late in life is to approach the art with a special kind of humility … for Ann Hammond, poetry pursued its habits silently and only with the awareness of oncoming age did she notice it, with the same electric joy you might detect a doe stepping out of the woods at dusk.”

Poet Ann Hammond is scheduled to read excerpts from her book, “Hear the Kingfisher,” at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor on Saturday, May 17, at 6 p.m. For more information, call 725-4926.

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