Smithyland: adventures in North Island places, history, and poetry

Scott Hamilton

In a career that spanned fifty years Kendrick Smithyman wrote thousands of poems, yet interest in his work remains confined to a relatively small circle of readers. Smithyman is popular with other poets and with scholars of literature, but he has often been seen by the wider public 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 its complexity. The poems Smithyman left behind are meticulously crafted, multi-faceted portraits of New Zealand's past, its present, and its possible futures. They should be seen as part of the cultural inheritance of every Kiwi.

A mixture of travel writing, literary criticism, and sociological survey, Smithyland is an attempt to bring Kendrick Smithyman's poetry to a wider audience by showing its broad relevance to New Zealanders. Ranging from the muddy shores of the Hokianga to the suburbs of Auckland to the forests of the Ureweras, Scott Hamilton explores the locations of a series of Smithyman's poems, and considers the meanings these poems and places hold for us today. Chatting with professors, potheads, and political activists, and taking part in pighunts and archaeological surveys, Hamilton gives a vivid and sometimes disconcerting portrait of the weird and yet familiar place called 'Smithyland'.

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ISBN 978-1-877441-16-5