Sam Hunt is a New Zealand poet I’ve heard many times in person and have so appreciated his particular giftedness every time. There’s something about the spoken poem that gets into the deep places of my life; that bumps up against my ways of seeing and engaging the world; bumps up against other ways of seeing and naming. It enlarges my experiences of life. I’m grateful for Sam, for Baxter before him, and for the many poets I’ve both read and heard. Poets like Bud Osborn, Clive James, Seamus Heaney, John O’Donohue, David Malouf, Rumi, Hafiz, Hone Tuwhare, Denise Levertov, Mary Oliver, Federico Garcia Lorca, Brian Turner, Robert Lax, Lawrence Ferlinghettim Allen Ginsberg, Glenn Colquhoun, Rowan Williams, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Kevin Hart, Leonard Cohen, Adrienne Rich, E.E. Cummings, Stanley Kunitz, Sharon Olds, Marie Howe. And on my fridge is Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Kindness – a daily reminder of what’s important and needful in life. These, and more besides, are the poets who nourish my soul.
But, today is Sam Hunt’s day. In fact on Monday (July 4th) it was his 70th birthday. Happy birthday Sam. I’m grateful you’re amongst us.
“Sam Hunt CNZM, QSM is unique among New Zealand poets in his ability to recite not only his own poems but those of Yeats, Baxter, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Dylan Thomas, to name just a few, in pubs from Kaipara to Bottle Creek and hold audiences spell-bound.
His latest book of poems, Salt River Songs, is being launched on July 4th to mark his 70th birthday. Death is a recurring theme but it’s far from a gloomy collection. A poem dedicated to his friend, the late documentary photographer, Glenn Jowitt begins:
Death called by the other day –
No one was home at the time,
A note. “Sorry I missed you’,
Stuck under the front door mat.
Sam Hunt recently sat down with Sunday Morning’s Wallace Chapman and talked about his life and influences and the poems that tumble out of him. He knows more than 1000 poems off by heart – a girlfriend once took it upon herself to count them, and a professor of psychology has dedicated a chapter in a textbook to the poet’s prodigious memory.” You'll find the interview here.