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SRB: Sam (in) Hunt for Laureateship

SRB Picks of the Week 23 Aug 2008
By Jeremy Rose for the Scoop Review of Books
There's a growing clamour on the Internet for Sam Hunt to be named the next New Zealand Poet Laureate. Well, if not a clamour a chorus of two; former Listener staff writer Denis Welch took time out from writing his unauthorised biography of Helen Clark to float the idea, and Bookman Beattie suggested the same thing on his blog. The Scoop Review of Books is happy to add the full weight of its not inconsiderable prestige to the call;-).

The old cliché about six degrees of separation recently got a re-airing as the result of some Microsoft research but I suspect there would be few New Zealanders who would separated from Sam Hunt by more than a couple of handshakes and a huge number who can claim to have, if not met the man in person, at least heard him read poetry, be it in a pub, school hall, or an at outdoor festival.

He's unique in New Zealand in his ability to both attract and hold a crowd with his "songs for the tone deaf". But it's not just his "songs" that he delivers but the poems of everyone from Yeats and Dylan to Baxter and Tuwhare. A true poet of the people.

An excellent profile of Sam by Diana Witchel is now available in full at the Listener site. Well worth a read.

Talking of popular poets the man invariably described as the National Poet of Palestine Mahmoud Darwish was buried earlier this month.

Isreali peacenik Uri Avnery was one of those to attend his funeral and wrote movingly of the experience.

You can listen to Darwish reading a poem here. And the Guardian obit gives a taste of the man and his poetry.

Recently Published by Scoop Review of Books

Guangzhou Spastic
Beijing Coma by Ma Jian
Chatto & Windus, $37. Reviewed By JEREMY ROSE
My first conversation in China was with a spastic street cleaner in Guangzhou. After establishing I was from New Zealand he asked whether the Treaty of Waitangi had been ratified and whether Bill Andersen was still a “major” politician. Amazed, I asked him how he knew so much about New Zealand and he replied that for a decade or more New Zealand’s The People’s Voicewas the only English language paper in the Guangzhou library. Read more »

Five Books About Blackball
By Simon Nathan
Blackball is a remote and bleak West Coast mining town in the shadow of the Paparoa Range. The main mine closed over 50 years ago, but a small, fiercely loyal community remains. People with Blackball connections have fond memories of a town that probably seems better through nostalgia-tinted lenses. Although these books cover a period of more than 100 years, a common theme is that life in Blackball was tough. Read more »

The Prosecutor and the President
The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder
Vanguard, US$27, Reviewed by MICHAEL COLLINS
Vincent Bugliosi wants George W. Bush prosecuted for murder. There are others who are complicit in the crime, namely the Vice President and Condoleezza Rice, but Bush is the target of this famed former Los Angeles prosecutor (the Charles Manson case) and best selling author (Helter Skelter and The Betrayal of America as two examples). He is undeterred by the virtual major media blackout on interviews and advertising. He’s taking his case directly to the people through alternate media and the internet. Read more »

Poem of the Week: Talking of the weather
From: Doubtless: new & selected poems by Sam Hunt
Craig Potton Publishing, $30.
Read more »

Five Books that Helped Make Me a Poet
By Airini Beautrais
This is a tough call as I think to be any kind of writer you need to read more like five hundred books. However these are a few of the books that spring to mind as having influenced me at particular times of my life. Firstly my mum was a big William Blake fan. If I had been a boy it’s quite likely I would have been named Blake. Probably my first introduction to his work was a recording of ‘Tyger tyger’ made in the 60s which was on a nursery rhyme tape we had. When I was a teenager – maybe 15 – I read the Songs of Innocence and Experience and enjoyed it. Read more »

Tragedy of Extinction
Don Merton: The Man Who Saved the Black Robin by Alison Ballance
Reed, $40. Reviewed By DUNCAN CRAIG
In a world that treats an individual death as a tragedy, it’s hard to admit that extinction is inevitable. Don Merton’s life in conservation is profoundly influenced by the extinction of Stead’s bush wren, the Stewart Island snipe and the greater short-tailed bat in the 1970s. Rats got onto their last island refuge off Stewart Island, and Merton witnessed their end personally. It made him determined to intervene to thwart other species’ destruction. Read more »

MMP’s Reluctant Midwife
The Bolger Years: 1990-1997, edited by Margaret Clark
Dunmore Publishing. $38. Review by ALISON McCULLOCH
If there’s one thing from the Bolger years that the Nats seem to hate almost as much as Winston Peters, it’s MMP, and it was the Nats who created them both. MMP, which was ushered in on Jim Bolger’s watch, was “a tragedy of errors” and “our big institutional mistake,” says Ruth Richardson, National’s Mother of all Finance Ministers; it creates “distortions” in the political process, argues Geoff Thompson, a former MP and Party president; and, worst of all, it is precisely what allows people like Winston Peters to survive, at least in the opinion of Bill Birch, a former National cabinet minister. Read more »

Halina’s Story
Growing up, Halina Ogonowska-Coates would find bread hidden in strange places around the house. Her mother had put it there – she had a lifelong obsession with hoarding bread in case she ever found herself without food again. LAURA MCQUILLAN talks to Ogonowska-Coates about her recently re-published book Krystyna’s Story and growing up in New Zealand as the daughter of a Polish refugee. Read more »

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