Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lines for a New Year by Sam Hunt

I like the branch
I find myself on

a view over the garden
all the way down to the beach

the family below me
gathered in the garden

debating where I’ve gone.
My father’s got a theory.

I like the branch
I find myself on.


You know how it is

to give up the piss
a week to the

day before Christmas

you know how it is

to fall over sober
safe in some spot,

come to later
remembering the lot.

the rugby ball kicked
far as the far paddock
where an apple tree caught it.
Was agreed among folk

they'd never seen such a catch,
such a kick, such a match.


I gave it away lately
I had no choice,
no need pump the brakes 
they'd already seized.

I like your poison, lady,
I like it too much:
which is why I am
        where I am today
outside of thought, beyond your touch.

I said I'll be seeing you.
You knew what I meant,
at least you seemed to.
Was the message you got
the same one I sent?


It's a love song
between a mother and son.

The son plays the drums
and wrote the song.

On the recording
mother sings the song

like mothers do. And the
son plays the drums

like a good boy. It's a
love song.


A friend used to say
my dog and I
had the same way of walking,

especially walking away.
Which was
often the case.

These days there's
not much happening.
It's people walking toward me

asking, where's the dog,
the dog? And they're
right. Where is he?


You live in this world
you have no choice.
Silence would be fine.
But you give it voice 

you have to, you cannot
help yourself.
Your mother says you never knew
when enough was enough.


Dreamt I met Thomas Hardy
walking a local back road.
He was an old man
but coped okay with his cane.

He said he was looking for
a woman called Lizbie Brown.
I said I knew her name 
but only from his poem.


Sitting on a clifftop
was always a dream
that more or less came true.
Just the words dried up.


Friends disappear
off the face of the earth.
For what it's worth
I loved you.
But you can't hear.


Is  said (what few
elders we have left)
anyone for whom birds sing
all night through to dawn

are themselves
close to eternal bird-song:
their time, among these branches,
that of the elders  – not long.


If this were the view
I got all year through 
a branch of a tree at the window 

I would become that
branch of tree and with it

The nurses agree
I never complain
about the rain, or pain.

Easy, when you know
you're a tree
at the window.


When I poured her a cup of tea
and asked her, strong or weak?
she held out a dark wrist:
same colour as this.


I'm off to look at angels.
And toetoe if I see it.

The family move in close.
No way out but

close my eyes to see

if anything's left of the toetoe,
and the angels.


© Sam Hunt. Posted with Sam Hunt's permission.
Sam Hunt
                                 Editor: Helen McKinlay.

Lines for a New Year is from Sam Hunt's latest collection, Knucklebones: Poems 1962-2012 (Craig Potton 2012).  I think there are few New Zealanders who have not heard of this poet, but just in case here is his bio courtesy of Craig Potton Publishers. [Go here to view the poet's website, read more poetry and/or purchase a book.]

Sam Hunt was born in 1946 at Castor Bay, Auckland. As a child, he was surrounded by poetry and performance: his mother, father and grandfather regularly read poems out loud or recited from memory; and his father was a somewhat eccentric barrister who came from a family of actors, troupers and musicians.

From a young age Sam wrote poetry, and has since become one of New Zealand's best-known and best-loved poets, touring the length and breadth of the country for over 40 years, performing his poems in pubs, theatres, schools and countless other venues. Fuelled always by his lifelong commitment to 'lifting the words off the page and giving them a good listen to,' he has introduced poetry to generations of New Zealanders.

In 1985, Sam Hunt was awarded a QSM for his contribution to New Zealand literature, and in 2010 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to poetry.

As well as these well-deserved accolades, congratulations are due to Sam for being the 2012 recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. He lives with his son on the Kaipara Harbour in Northland, New Zealand.

Along with his permission to publish 'Lines for a New Year', Sam very generously sent me a new unpublished poem (below). I was a fan before .... have seen him perform and admired his lack of pretentiousness, amazing memory and wonderful inclusiveness .... and I am even more of a fan now, and finding Knucklebones hard to put down.So many delicious lines. It's hard to choose any poems let alone just one.

Tell me what

Tell me what I don’t know –
not what I know now

or what I’ll know tomorrow.
Tell me something new,

a story that will blow
this steady head apart.

Maybe that’s about where
the best stories start:

or you could go on, and on,
talking of the morning after:

the storm, the break up at sea.
And all of it gone,

gone down deep
where no one should go –

gone as that! . . Tell me
what I won’t know tomorrow.

©  Sam Hunt 2012

This week's editor Helen McKinlay is a published children's author and poet who lives in the South Island of New Zealand. To read about her and her writing visit her blog here.

After you've read Sam Hunt's poems check out the poems posted in the left-hand sidebar chosen or written by our thirty Tuesday Poets.


Lucia Phillips said...

I dapple in writing myself. Nice read

Mary McCallum said...

I met Sam Hunt when he and Gary McCormick performed at Victoria University orientation week in 1981 - I was the Cultural Affairs Officer back then - and I shepherded the two of them on stage where, armed with a bottle or two of something (vodka I think), they brought the packed house down. How many poets do that? I also heard them both reading at a pub in Gisborne one New Year's Eve. Again, poets and pubs - who does that well? Sam and Gary do it well because they're both generous, honest people with much of the stuffing of kiwi blokes but who also happen to be that rare thing, minstrels driven to share the words they write, as much for the ordinary punter as for themselves. My growing up as a poet in this country would have been the poorer without Sam and Gary. Thanks so much for this post Helen - and to Sam for his generosity, again, in offering both a published and an unpublished poem. Knucklebones is a book I must seek out.

Emma said...

Love it!

Emma Geraghty said...

A warm read. I particularly enjoyed the lack of arrogance the writer (Sam) has. He welcomes the reader in to open the imagination.
"Tell me something I don't know, now" I love it. This is gorgeous! so open and honest that it just made me want to read more.

Harvey Molloy said...

His work continues to delight and impress as he goes from strength to strength.

Janis Freegard said...

I've always been a big fan - lovely to see these poems here.

Unknown said...

I like the rime of this poem called " Tell me what".. I feel as if the author is trying to say that "tell me something I don't know", something different that blows his/hers mind.

Unknown said...

Nice Poem, i really Like the rhythm of the poem. I guess what hes trying to say is that what people want others to tell them in order to impress them, they have gone through that and already know about it.

Unknown said...

Love this poem. So meaningful and heartwarming. Reading poems is one of my hobbies. Lately, I've been reading Christmas poems and sorta collecting them for later reads. Cheers!