Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Vaughan Rapatahana on my sporting career

Johnny Cash has a famous song about the travails of a boy named Sue, and gossip columnists love to mock and condemn the absurd names celebrities give their offspring. It is certainly how to see how any kid could enjoy being called Apple or Trixibelle or Pilot Helikopter. But very common names can also be troublesome to their bearers. As a kid, I was asked with tiresome regularity whether I played the saxophone, and how well I could skate. I had the same name as a smooth-playing, cheesily moustachioed American jazz musician and a figure skater who had won gold on the Sarajevo ice at the 1984 Winter Olympics.

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]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds bourgeois

11:31 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Good review Maps. I played soccer (but only for short time, I heroically turned my back on sports and other such inferior activities) but there was no problem. Rugby is the big game but it might be better to go back to the gladiators. It's a gem for morons not cultured intellectuals with wonderful minds such as you and I. Christ that World Cup nonsense gave me a pain in the rectum.

now I play chess - now THAT is a man's game. Ooops I mean it's a tough game, and in fact there are more and more young women playing. Chess is actually second to soccer in popularity as a sport or game (let's call that noble sport, soccer, by its correct British name)...Rugby is played by a few of the "challenged nations" of the world...they don't play rugby in Mongolia.

The Chinese are very keen on chess.

It's tragedy your reviewer descended to invoke rugby however and to associate sports with your name.It's clear I'm going to have to sort this Rapatahana fellow out! He needs to not mention Rugby - that barbaric game! Ugggh!!

That nearly spoilt a great review...

Smithyman, that Great Riddler -no way he would have played Rugby - his IQ was over 20.

11:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'P.B. Shelley has all too obviously lent Hamilton part of his stash.'

5:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9.


12:05 am  
Anonymous wandybrad said...

Thank you for your support Anonymous The Great and your Courageous Anonymity when you attack me - I am so humble bumbled.
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9:56 pm  

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