Vaughan Rapatahana on my sporting career
More recently, and perhaps more flatteringly, I've sometimes been mistaken for the former Canterbury and All Blacks winger and fullback who was born a few years after me, and whose parents pinched my name. In a review of my first book of poetry in 2007, the late Rhys Brookbanks argued that I bore a reasonable resemblance to my ball-playing namesake. In his review of my second book of poems for Landfall Online, Vaughan Rapatahana is not so sure about my sporting credentials, though he does accuse me of using performance-enhancing drugs:
Feeding the Gods is a big trip, where time has run away with itself and men ‘meant’ to be dead are very much alive, some doing odd things. Franz Kafka has clawed his way into the dressing room. P.B. Shelley has all too obviously lent Hamilton part of his stash. Plentiful alcohol has also crept into the genesis of these pages. In between the ears of this Scott Hamilton, who does not play rugby at all, but reads a hell of a lot, there is something divergent; a mythopoeic morass that seeps onto the page with a flurry of quick-shuffle images and juxtaposed heroes, and above all, a vibrant social conscience...Scott Hamilton, the non-All Black who has never met Graham Henry, exists in a strange sociolinguistic ethos in comparison to most of his Pakeha poetic peers, in an extra-intelligent terrain unexplored by most of his fellow citizens...
Kendrick Smithyman did not get selected for the All Blacks and I suspect that in any case he was unavailable. Actually, he was one of my University of Auckland tutors way back, and he always wore the same light brown corduroy jacket with elbow pads of a different hue. He was a damned serious dude. Scott Hamilton – the one who would rather look for dendroglyphs and mull over Trevor Bentley books than jump in a lineout – lionizes Smithyman as a marginalised figure, and it is this trenchant outsiderism in his own pieces — inspired throughout by Smithyman’s bleakly obscure palimpsests — that works so well for me in this collection.
I think that Vaughan is right in guessing that Kendrick Smithyman would have been unavailable for the All Blacks. In any case, he was too far past his best, as an athlete if not a writer, by the time the country's leading players made themselves unavailable by touring South Africa in the mid-'80s, and Brian Lochore began scouring the country's high schools and Golden Oldies clubs for able-bodied replacements.
Vaughan is right to an intuit a lack of enthusiasm for the great game of rugby in me. I enjoyed kicking an oval ball round the backyard as a kid, but when the time came to commit to a winter sport I was swayed by the superior footwear and relatively light tackling of the round ball sport, and joined the Papakura Association Football Club. My choice might have saved me from cracked ribs and hypothermia, but it exposed me to ridicule at school, where the sport contemptuously known as 'soccer' was regarded as the preserve of 'wooses' and 'Poms'. I've never been serious about making the All Blacks, but for the record, and in case John Wright's successor as coach of the New Zealand cricket team is reading this post, I'd like to say that I am still available for the Black Caps. I know I might be getting a bit long in the tooth, but if I were selected for the forthcoming tour of the West Indies I'd still be younger than Herb McGirr was on his international debut.
You can read Vaughan's very generous review in full here. My book can be bought online at the Titus site.
[Posted by Maps/Scott]