Tuesday, April 06, 2010

In search of Smithyland

The past week has been one of the most disgraceful in the whole disgraceful history of this blog. While the world has rolled relentlessly on through space and all sorts of dramatic, absurd, or otherwise blogworthy events have unfolded, I have been absent from my station. I haven't posted, and I haven't even contributed to the interesting debate about the relationship between language and politics that has attached itself to my previous post.

I can only excuse my derilection of duty by explaining that I have been charging about the backblocks of Te Ika a Maui over the past week, researching my forthcoming book on Kendrick Smithyman with a slightly desperate glee. I've just dug up the precis sketch of the book which I used in a vain attempt to get Creative New Zealand funding last year, and I'm bemused to realise that the plan I had then bears very little relation to the work which is taking shape now. I'll post it here anyway, as a sort of historical document. I apologise in advance for the slightly creepy way in which I refer to myself in the third person throughout the text.

The good news I have is that plans for a conference on Smithyman and the myriad issues that his life and work raise are progressing nicely. The University of Auckland's Holloway Press and Titus Books have agreed to co-sponsor the event, which is being scheduled for late October, and which will coincide with the publication of Smithyland and - fingers crossed - one or two other books devoted to the great man. I'll have more details later this week, but I am already in a position to promise a bus tour of Smithyman's favourite parts of Auckland followed by a booze-up at one of his several watering holes.

Introducing Smithyland

Kendrick Smithyman was one of New Zealand’s most prolific and critically acclaimed poets. During his lifetime he published a dozen volumes of verse, the only book-length study of New Zealand poetry, and a stream of book reviews and essays. Since Smithyman’s death in 1995 his oeuvre has continued to grow, as volumes of previously unpublished poems have appeared. Smithyman continues to attract commentators: the University of Auckland’s English Department has in recent years devoted a Masters paper to his work, and in 2004 the literary journal brief produced a special issue about him.

Yet interest in Kendrick Smithyman’s writing remains confined to a relatively small circle of readers. Smithyman is popular with other poets and with scholars of literature, but he has never achieved the renown amongst the general public that some other Kiwi poets – his contemporaries James K Baxter and Hone Tuwhare, for instance – enjoy. Smithyman has often been viewed as a ‘difficult’ or ‘academic’ writer. This view is regrettable, because Smithyman was a man who had a great deal to say to his fellow Kiwis.

From the beginning until the end of his career, Smithyman was preoccupied with New Zealand, and with the challenges of being an intellectual and a poet in New Zealand. Smithyman’s poems are suffused with the scenery, history, and speech of his homeland. If the language of Smithyman’s poems is sometimes difficult, this is only because the society he is dealing with is complex, and he wishes to do justice to this complexity. The poems Smithyman left behind are carefully crafted, multi-faceted portraits of New Zealand’s past, present, and possible futures. They should be seen as part of the cultural inheritance of every Kiwi.

Smithyland is an attempt to bring Kendrick Smithyman’s poetry to a wider audience by showing its broad relevance to New Zealanders. Scott Hamilton has selected a dozen different Smithyman poems set in a dozen different parts of the North Island. He proposes to travel to the location of each poem and uncover the meaning that the poem and the place hold today. He will range widely, from the Hokianga in the north to the Ureweras in the east to the Manawatu in the south. Hamilton will prepare for his journey through Smithyland by excavating the vast collection of Smithyman papers held in the archives of the University of Auckland library, and by interviewing people – old friends, family, and colleagues - who knew the poet well.

Although it will be well-researched and will feature careful readings of Smithyman’s poems, Smithyland will not be a conventional work of academic scholarship or literary criticism. Hamilton proposes to bring Smithyman’s poems out of the literary salon and the academy by discussing them with the people he encounters on his journey through Smithyland. Using his many contacts, he proposes to talk to local historians, kaumatua, conservation workers, organic gardeners, members of military re-enactment societies, revolutionary socialists, nudists, and freezing workers about their responses to Smithyman’s portraits of the places where they live. Smithyland will include many excerpts from Smithyman’s writing, as well as some of the thousands of photographs the poet took on his journeys around the North Island.

About the Twelve Poems Selected for Smithyland

‘Walk Past Those Houses on a Sunday Morning’ (1943-45)

Smithyman wrote this poem at the beginning of his career, and it is suffused with optimism. He sees the brand-new suburb of Point Chevalier, with its working class families living in state houses built by the first Labour government, as a metaphor for the new world which is being constructed in the ruins of war. Smithyman regards his own poem as part of the great construction job. It will all ‘take shape in the end’, he assures his readers.

Six decades later, does Smithyman’s optimism seem warranted? Hamilton will try to answer this question by exploring Point Chevalier, which was once dominated by working class families like Smithyman’s but is now increasingly gentrified. He will visit the old Smithyman family home and the houses where Smithyman’s childhood friend Sir Keith Sinclair lived, locate the sites named in ‘Walk Past Those Houses on a Sunday Morning’, and talk to the suburb’s long-time inhabitants as well as the new upmarket buyers struggling to cover their mortgages in the wake of the global economic crisis.

‘Vignettes of the Maori Wars: Mangatawhiri Stream’ (1958)

The Mangatwhiri Stream, which flows into the Waikato River near the small town of Mercer, was chosen by the leaders of the Waikato Kingdom as the ‘aukati’ or border of their nation. When thousands of British and colonial troops poured across the Mangatawhiri on July 12, 1863, they began the bloodiest chapter of the New Zealand Wars. Smithyman’s poem meditates on the role that history and fate forced upon a stream which ‘merely wished to ride unnoticed’. He links the Mangatawhiri to General Cameron, the leader of the invading force, who was ‘getting on in years’ and ‘not up to/his job’. Cameron privately opposed the invasion, believing it was motivated by greed rather than justice. His view is today accepted by most historians.

Hamilton will visit the site where Cameron crossed the Mangatawhiri, and ask what lessons the Waikato War holds for us today. He will meet people who trace their descent from both sides of the war, military history enthusiasts who like to restage the war’s battles, and historians and museum curators who are charged with the sensitive task of commemorating the events of 1863.

‘Neighbourhoods’ (1967)

Smithyman spent most of his adult life living on Auckland’s North Shore, but his attitude to the place was ambivalent. He enjoyed being a part of the famous circle of North Shore writers that included Frank Sargeson, Maurice Dugan, and CK Stead, but he was uncomfortable with the steady urbanisation the area. In ‘Neighbourhoods’ he surveys the sprawl of suburbs that appeared on the Shore in the decades after the opening of the Auckland Harbour bridge in 1959, and unsurprisingly finds that they have ‘little sense’ of history.

Was Smithyman’s attitude to the Shore too negative? Other, later writers have developed a more affirmative approach to the area, finding the stuff of poetry in its shopping malls, its subdivisions, and its boy racers. Hamilton will wander the Shore, visiting the many sites mentioned in ‘Neighbourhoods’, and dropping in on important contemporary Shore writers.

‘Colville’ (1968)

By the late 1960s, when Smithyman came visiting, the far north of the Coromandel was becoming a place where urban Kiwis interested in Eastern religion, organic gardening, and communal living came to turn their theories into practice. Smithyman himself had a son who lived for a time in a commune near Colville, the small town on the west coast of the far north of the Coromandel. Long-time residents of the peninsula were often bewildered and sometimes angered by the arrival of outsiders, and Smithyman’s gothic poem shows how hostile they could be.

Hamilton will visit the Coromandel and investigate whether the utopias that idealistic young men and women tried to create decades ago were ever realised, and whether the hostility of the older population of the peninsula was ever overcome. He will visit Turkey Island near Colville, which was the place where the protagonist of Roger Donaldson’s hit film Sleeping Dogs attempted disastrously to create a private utopia, and ask whether the Coromandel can still be a place of refuge from some of the less pleasant features of the modern world.

‘Idyll’ (1971)

Kendrick Smithyman’s first marriage to his fellow poet Mary Stanley was marred by the chronic illness which frequently incapacitated Stanley and ultimately led to her early death in 1980. Despite Stanley’s condition, the couple tried to live a normal life, and they often went on camping trips which allowed Kendrick to indulge his passion for the countryside and history of the North Island. ‘Idyll’ was written about a camping trip to a rugged part of the Manawatu, and it mixes beautiful evocations of the New Zealand bush with grim details about Stanley’s suffering. Hamilton will talk to people who knew both Smithyman and Stanley, visit some of the sites where they camped, and reflect on Smithyman’s attempt to use poetry to deal with the anguish Stanley’s condition caused him.

‘Demolition: Building the University’ (1972)

From the mid-sixties until the late eighties Kendrick Smithyman taught in the English Department of the University of Auckland. The early seventies were a time of turmoil at the university, as students protested against war and apartheid, as well as issues closer to home, like the university’s refusal to run a crèche or build a marae, and the antiquated way it taught some subjects.

The demolition of several historic university buildings makes Smithyman meditate on the turbulence of the seventies, and on the strange historical parallels to his present situation as a figure of authority at an institution where authority is continually being challenged.

In the 1990s student protest was once again widespread at the university, as students rebelled against huge study fees, but today it is the institution’s staff who are in a rebellious mood, as they contest restructuring that threatens their conditions and pay. Hamilton will visit the university and talk to academics and student activists alike about what lessons Smithyman’s poem holds for them today. He will also explore the strange architectural landscape of the university, which is the result of more than a hundred years of piecemeal building and controversial demolition, and which perhaps provides a metaphor for the struggle between commerce and scholarship.

‘Mountain Stop’ (1983)

Smithyman was fascinated by the Maori prophet and guerrilla fighter Te Kooti, and wrote a number of poems about him. Hamilton will use these poems to trace the progress of the war Te Kooti fought against the government of New Zealand between 1868 and 1872. He will use Smithyman’s directions to get to Whareongaonga, the small bay south of Gisborne where Te Kooti landed with a group of followers in a boat he had stolen to escape from his unjust exile on the Chatham Islands. Hamilton’s journey will take him through the rugged hill country of the northern Hawkes Bay to Ruatahuna, the settlement in the heart of the Ureweras which is the setting for Smithyman’s poem ‘Mountain Stop’. Smithyman was aware of the anger that the Tuhoe people of the Ureweras feel against the Crown, as a result of the repeated invasions of their rohe during the war against Te Kooti, and his poem worries about the future of race relations in New Zealand.

Hamilton will reread ‘Mountain Stop’ in the light of the massive police raid on the Tuhoe territory in 2007, and talk to some of the people caught up in that raid about the ongoing legacy of the nineteenth century wars between Maori and the Crown.

‘Hitching’ (1971)

Te Kooti is also an important character in ‘Hitching’, a poem Smithyman wrote about a journey down the Desert Road of the central North Island. After he picks up a hippy hitchhiker who looks a little like the great guerrilla fighter, Smithyman remembers that the wild horses which run about beside the road are descendants of the horses brought to the area by Te Kooti’s guerrillas. The poet’s mind begins to roam, and the 1970s become fused with the 1870s.

Hamilton will visit the Desert Road area, and explore its role as a repository of both Pakeha and Maori legends and tall tales. He will ask whether the region can be considered New Zealand’s equivalent of the Yorkshire Moors or America’s Death Valley – a wild, liminal place, which triggers the imaginations of its visitors.

‘Hole in the Ground’ (1971)

Smithyman was fascinated by archaeology, and several critics have called his poetry ‘archaeological’, on account of its layers of meaning and complex structures. In ‘Hole in the Ground’ Smithyman describes his adventures in a remote part of Northland, and his discovery of what seems to be an ancient site of human habitation. In language that is both poetic and analytical, he describes the signs that humans leave on the landscape, as well as the ‘gross bulk of silence’ and mystery that they also bequeath to their descendants. Hamilton will travel to the site of a University of Auckland archaeological investigation in Northland, and talk to participants in the adventure about the value of archaeology to our understanding of both the past and the present.

‘Waitomo’ (c. 1978-79)

Smithyman’s poem about the famous cave system in the King Country is both a wry account of the Kiwi tourist industry at work – 'for a dollar head/ whole nations file underground’, he writes – and an eerie evocation of a journey down a ‘verbless river’ to an underworld where silence and glow worms rule. Hamilton will visit the caves, which today cost many times what Smithyman paid to enter. He will ponder the evolution of the Kiwi tourist industry as well as the meaning of the many antipodean versions of the myth of an underworld.

‘Deconstructing’ (1983)

By the 1980s postmodernism had reached New Zealand universities, and a new generation of students were challenging the orthodoxies of their teachers by making provocative claims about the ‘death of the author’ and the ‘constructed nature of reality’. Smithyman was no stranger to such ideas – he had been one of the first Kiwi intellectuals to read Heidegger and Wittgenstein, philosophers who challenged the traditional correspondence theory of truth, and he had long been fascinated by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who proclaimed that the world was continually in flux.

In this witty poem, Smithyman turns the tables on fashionable postmodernists by taking the ancient unfashionable Heraclitus and the equally unfashionable countryside near Dargaville and using them to deliver a lecture on the fluid nature of reality. Remembering Heraclitus’s claim that ‘one does not step twice into the same river’, Smithyman details the many natural and human changes that a creek in rural Northland goes through, as it flows toward the sea. In doing so, he shows that what seems well-known – the Kiwi countryside, a Greek philosopher dead thousands of years – can contain all types of surprises. Hamilton will visit the setting of ‘Deconstructing’, and ask what new changes have occurred since Smithyman wrote the poem.

‘Lone Kauri’ (c. 1992)

In his last years Smithyman was afflicted by cancer, but this did not stop him writing Atua Wera, a book-length series of poems set in the Hokianga region of Northland. Atua Wera is the story of the movement that grew around a mysterious nineteenth prophet known as Papahurihia, who fused elements of Christianity, traditional Maori belief, and anti-colonial politics into a system of ideas that competed with the Catholics, Anglicans, and Wesleyans for the souls of Hokianga Maori.

Smithyman was always a great divagator, and Atua Wera contains many asides, including this beautiful short poem about a tree growing in an isolated part of the Hokianga. Like the poet, the tree is old and in poor health, having been ‘lightning smitten’ and ‘gale struck’. Hamilton will travel through the Hokianga, visiting some of the many people who helped Smithyman in his research there, and discuss the poet’s courageous and industrious last years.

Note: all twelve of the pieces discussed in this proposal can be found at Smithyman's searchable online Collected Poems.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maps

Whereabouts in the Manawatu was KS talking about?
It's just that I went into Mitre Flat last week and the roar is on now so kinda curious.

Look forward to hearing more about your travels


8:20 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Pete,

alas, I don't know the Manawatu at all well, and haven't gotten down there yet for Smithyland research. According to the notes to the Collected Poems, which were organised by Peter Simpson with help from Smithyman's second wife Margaret Edgcumbe, 'Idyll' was written on the 17th of May 1971, and records 'a camping holiday in the Manawatu'. I'm not sure if 'Manawatu' means Tararua Ranges or not.

At one point in the poem Smithyman writes that 'The river's name rightly is Waiata', but I don't think this is a reference to an actual place name. Here's the poem, in case it rings any bells amongst folks who know the Manawatu:


Adam and Eve, without serpent
or guile, all night the river duetto,
voices that were steps and stairs.
Those smallest rapids in the gorge
spelled out sleep for jittery timbers,
lulling coves and sandbars.
Sang, right through the night, just loud
enough to tell they kept their distance
from your doorstep which was
a pair of honeysuckle trees,
Adam and Eve left and right of the path
which you took, to rinse a bucket of washing,
where we lifted any bucket of water.
We drank the last light.

And sank the last of the whisky,
letting the fire go blank.
Indefinite as smoke upstream,
a stag roared. Nightfall,
a truckload of kids cruised the road
spotting for possums with a .22,
but went off before long,
maybe to tickle trout.

We also, we were illicit, apart from
our eiron’s habitual domain,
vulnerable. Whatever anyone means by
life is not in our hands. You are lived
by. Most of twenty-four hours
of each/any/every day,
when the little white faithful pills work
as quietly as the sisters
at the hospital of Mater Misericordiae
where they shot you full of gold
salts, copper salts, salts of tears
not without failing.
How, elementary, is your will free?

The malformed path ended at
those honeysuckle trees, rewarewa.
The river’s name rightly is Waiata.
Vulnerable, we could not
distinguish good from evil. Our
sin was original. It was content.

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. this guy's poetry is totally incomprehensible.

no wonder no one reads poetry these days.

why not talk about something relevant??

3:39 pm  
Anonymous Jamies Toogood said...

wow. this commenter's ability to understand words is totally simplistic.

no wonder no one reads blog comments these days.

why not comment about kiwiblog??

4:34 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

Jamies Toogood - I read blog comments, because I often learn new things & sources. Especially from a blog like 'Reading the Maps'.

Sad little trolls like the 2nd Anon should be left in their dingy holes under the bridge.

5:35 pm  
Anonymous pete said...

Hi Maps,

There's a Waiti Stream out back of Gladstone which is East of Levin but I'm guessing he meant a singing river which is all of them. Besides, that's more the Horowhenua.
There's a whole lot of beautiful country in that range and hardly anyone there.Plenty of deer too.
I like the line about tickling trout - it's surprisingly easy but sneaking up on them? not so much.


6:00 pm  
Anonymous Jamie Toogood said...

KH: but I was parodying the form of anon's comments with a vague whiff of reductio ad absurdum.

6:04 pm  
Anonymous KeriH said...

Jame Toogood - cool - but your comments probably inspired the puir wee thing-

anyway: back to Smithyman & sea/land/history-inspired poems: the site given to access these taoka
is relished. Thanks maps-

7:04 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Smithyman's strategy, or a large swatch of his strategy, is difficulty. He is like a chess player (vaguely) or a puzzle maker, a cryptologist. He loves the play of the intellect.

And mixes what we might call the "real" with what brought into play by the imagination - and in this way he is in long literary tradition - and his erudition was huge. (He can be linked, via his poem 'Waitomo' with its reference to 'Kubla Kahn', to such as Coleridge who was similarly a philosopher / poet interested in becoming the whole Being) [because of Baxter's Jerusalem period people somehow think that the more popular "hippy" James K was not "erudite", but he was - he had an MA and was very learned in the classics and much else - so was Smithyman, but his "MA" came through his own reading and experience etc but he was not a naif or anything!], and Smithyman was someone who looked everywhere for ideas and inspiration - not just into books, although books were of course a big part of his "experience".

It is not true that "nobody reads him" - but it IS true that he is more popular with the more intelligent and the more sensitive or more insightful, and with intellectuals. Or with people who take an interest in life and ideas, and are curious to a large degree. Bright people.

I recall that John Morton - Professor of Biology immediately remarked - on hearing of an interest in poetry - on his real interest and enjoyment of Smithyman's works.

But poems such as 'Waitomo' are very beautiful also. Quite colsex in reference, and also lyrical. As a person* he was not arrogant or pompous and was always trying to get others to be as enthusiastic as he was in things and ideas, and life I suppose - I had him as tutor for one year in 1968 - and he was indeed a divagator and very alert, very interested in everything. At the time I didn't think much of his poetry - finding it too difficult! But I later came to appreciate many of his poems and his methods of working in a poem.

Great poetry such as Smthyman's, if his is such, is not really for The Great Unwashed in any case, I am afraid. One is required to have a brain, to read a lot, to think, and to have a sensitivity to words and the beauty of language play.

And poetry is very much read by many people today. But not by such as 'anonymous' of the "wow" profundity, as to read poetry requires a brain.

* I did not know him personally - I am only talking of him as my tutor which was only one year.

8:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, February 5th, 2010 -- 11:49 am

No joke: South Carolina now requires subversives to register.
Five-dollar registration fee for persons planning to overthrow US

Terrorists who want to overthrow the United States government must now
register with South Carolina's Secretary of State and declare their
intentions -- or face a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

The state's "Subversive Activities Registration Act," passed last year
and now officially on the books, states that "every member of a
subversive organization, or an organization subject to foreign
control, every foreign agent and every person who advocates, teaches,
advises or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling,
conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United
States ... shall register with the Secretary of State."

There's even a $5 filing fee.

By "subversive organization," the law means "every corporation,
society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly,
body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly
or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty,
necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or
overthrowing the government of the United States [or] of this State."
Story continues below...

A PDF of the registration form can be found here, courtesy of FitsNews.

The law also gives subversive organizations "subject to foreign
control" 30 days to register with the state after setting up shop in
South Carolina.

While the intention of the law is apparently aimed at Islamic
terrorists, it's unclear in the law's wording whether it can be
applied to right-wing militias, some of whom have reputedly called for
the overthrow of the US government. The law states that "fraternal"
and "patriotic" groups are exempt from the law, but only if they don't
"contemplate the overthrow of the government."

While the law is clearly redundant -- there are plenty of statutes at
the state and federal level through which terrorists can be prosecuted
-- it reflects a not-uncommon pattern in some states of "doubling
down" against particular crimes.

For instance, South Carolina is among those states which require drug
dealers to declare their illegal income, or face additional criminal
penalties on top of the already established penalties for buying,
possessing and selling drugs.

The South Carolina blog FitsNews describes the new law as "bureaucracy
for terrorists."

"In the long and storied history of utterly retarded legislation in
South Carolina, we may have finally found the legal statute that takes
the cake for sheer stupidity, which we think you’ll agree is saying
something," the unsigned blog posting scathingly commented.

8:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

richard taylor...are you just deliberately being a snob?

why is it always MY fault if I can't understand some uphimself poet who uses deliberately elitist language?

why can't the writer have CLARITY?

oh I get it - poetry is a secret code that only the intellectual elite can use to communicate...with each other...while the rest are kept in the dark

well not in my book!

Rod McKuen and Sam Hunt are better than Richard Taylor and Keith Smithyman any day!

1:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all energy is life.

all life is energy.


2 really simple things keith dickyman failed to understand.

1:54 pm  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

I love smithyman's poems - thanks so much for introducing him to me/us via your blog maps.

Cannot wait for the book.

2:46 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"richard taylor...are you just deliberately being a snob?"

No. But I was being a little tongue in cheek - I don't write like Smithyman (I cant get the complexity and subtly of thought mixed with a great use of language he achieves-my approach is more say like a Jackson Pollock, I throw words on paper in kind of rage or in fact often I am in a kind of trance when I write, hard to describe, but nothing mystical just a kind of disengagement that I do) he is unique, and I wasn't necessarily saying that such difficulty is a requisite. In fact Smithyman himself was rather troubled by his reputation fr difficulty and said once that his difficult poems were often bad..but that maybe taken with a grain of salt ...

As I intimated in what I said I actually used to find Smithyman rather obscure...I preferred, of the poets I knew in say the 60s, such as R A K Mason and maybe.

I know how you feel about S as I myself said to Scott when we first started talking about poetry in about 1994 when he mentioned Smithyman, my response was: "He is pretty difficult." Now Scott said: "But there are many ways into him." And there are indeed. (Hi early poems - some of the are simply quite beautiful - as both he and Curnow were influenced both by Marrianne Moore and Dylan Thomas (who Curnow befriended)...so he did many "patterned poems"... but his 'influences' were very wide.

Now I still find - even with a BA and years of reading about literature and so on - that poetry of all kinds is difficult...and I like such poems as Wordsworth's "Daffodils"...Ilove aht and the wrosof keast andethmore diifult Browning! And R A K Mason who I read over and over as teenager.

Now I stopped reading much for many years and when I came back to poetry and lit. about 1988 one of the first writers I encountered was John Ashbery...who I found quite funny at first, but very strange and then haunting, then I just let the words work on me and since that have loved his work...so I am saying I understand the need for "simplicity" AND complexity...it is a mix we have in literature and in life.

But if you want to debate the need for clarity get hold of some L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets (Bernstein, Smithyman, Benson, Howe, Heijinian etc) work or some of the theory of their works and projects...

I think your concerns are valid so I will get back to what you have said here I have some( unusually for me!) business to attend to)...

"why is it always MY fault if I can't understand some uphimself poet who uses deliberately elitist language?"

It is not your fault, but if you make an effort you might find treasures you never suspected...I think you are wrong - why should it be "elitist" (anyone can get reference books - and anyone can read it - or use a dictionary) - but as I say I will get back to this.

"why can't the writer have CLARITY?"

He / she can but doesn't have to.

3:48 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"oh I get it - poetry is a secret code that only the intellectual elite can use to communicate...with each other...while the rest are kept in the dark"

Not quite but it has some origins in "magic" ..but this is a complex area...I felt like this as I say when I got "back into" poetry I felt as if I was in some mysterious world and even now, as I say I sometimes wonder reading even say Vincent O'Sullivan's Butcher poems (which often baffle me!) - that I am not very bright! But even with poems I don't understand I can get huge "psychic reaction" from - but more anon...

"well not in my book!"

You don't have to read these poets such as Smithyman - but I don't feel he only wrote for "intellectuals"... he really wanted to involve as many as he could but felt that the way he wrote was the way that was true to what he was trying to convey in art and in his philosophy and his view of history etc...

Bob Orr is true to himself with his eerily clear (yet "subtle" and near surreal in a way) poems that still give he a huge "buzz" so - there many kinds of writers.

"Rod McKuen and Sam Hunt are better than Richard Taylor and Keith Smithyman any day!"

Well ...I know of McKuen's, he pumped out a lot of books, but I am not sure he is "better" (what is "better'? Sam Hunt I admire for what he has done - he has followed in the path of Baxter who was great poet also...

But I am not in the equation I am afraid! I am not in academia and have spent most of my life either as tradesman or a labourer so I am not in the "University Club" shall we say... some of them like my work I think but most (perhaps rightly) feel I am rather gauche, facile, and "hit and miss"...I am not, for most of them, even on the graph!!

So some interesting questions...what is best ? I don't know...Smithyman is difficult in many cases but always interesting.

3:48 pm  

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