Sam Hunt, Portobello Pub

Had a couple of nights in Dunedin. One highlight was the opportunity to visit a new exhibition at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, an important one but I’ll explain why in another post. When it opened to the public on Saturday we attended the introductory talk and then returned again today (Sunday).

This painting (below) is eye-catching. Physically it’s very large and dominates the wall space, and the style is stark and simple. It’s instantly recognisable to any kiwi as being an artwork that’s “our place”. It also captured my attention because it’s so clean and uncluttered which doesn’t look quite right – especially when you see that it’s dated 1978. Back then I was in high school in the Far North (i.e. at the other end of the country). In our region I remember streets littered with litter and cigarette butts, especially around pubs. Portobello is on the beautiful Otago Peninsula, perhaps it was much nicer than the pub surrounds I remember! Or perhaps this is ‘cleaned-up’ – I don’t know. But it’s interesting.

So the bloke standing there in singlet and gumboots .. who’s he? Well, our English teacher had us read a few of his poems and one of them started off “Acne blossoms scarlet on their cheeks,” and I never forgave him for putting that line in my head. ~it never left and I hated it! So we didn’t get off to a particularly good start. The same (lovely) English teacher managed to arrange for our class to go and see him read poetry at a reading in the biggest town in our region. It was in the evening so I guess we stayed overnight in the town, and probably none of us had ever been to a poetry reading before! My memory is of a tall, hard-case, lanky guy with big hair, unusual voice, an unexpected style of delivery (for me anyway) and it was exactly opposite to what I’d imagined a poetry reading would be like!

Listening to some of his poems tonight, I find I rather like them so I’ve a completely different perspective now. He’s very well known in New Zealand. Now in his seventies. I’ve read that way back he used to visit school classes and take his dog Minstrel with him – now that sounds fun!

The painting is by Dame Robin White.
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Further Reading

Short article in the ODT about this painting, and Dame Robin White.
Public places. Oct 2015.

About Sam Hunt, including 8 audio files of him reading his poems.
~from The Poetry Archive. I particularly enjoyed this descriptive ‘About’ / bio.
~”In recital his voice is memorable. It evokes at one and the same time a wheezing harmonica and a raucous seagull. With bouffant hairdo like an exploded wool bale, bony bangle-clad wrists and fingers restlessly in motion, this is the poet as rock ‘n’ roller, affirming the power of performance.” 😀

Newsroom article from last year during Covid lockdown, Sam Hunt interview.
Sam Hunt: We’ll be wiser, weaker folk

Text and photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2021)

10 thoughts on “Sam Hunt, Portobello Pub

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  1. I really like the painting, and I enjoyed some memories, too. Your initial mention of going to hear him recite his poems brought to mind the time that Allen Ginsberg (“Howl” and other poems) showed up at my college; that was my first poetry ‘reading,’ and it certainly wasn’t what I expected. The best part came when some friends and I found Ginsberg at the local Holiday Inn coffee shop later that night, and had some conversation.

    Having read descriptions of Hunt as a self-mythologizing ham actor, I didn’t want to listen to his poetry first, since both the accent and the showmanship could obscure the poems. So, I looked for some text versions online, and liked what I found. I smiled at this one, particularly. It seems he’s found just the right branch.

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We did very little poetry at school. I liked the NZ Maori poet Hone Tuwhare, and we watched a film where Robert Frost’s poems were narrated to related footage of New England scenery – I was in awe! Sam Hunt was something else again and I was ill prepared for him as a person, his form of poetry or his style of delivery! Many decades later I find I now appreciate his work, it’s funny how we change 😀 By the way, when we were in Dunedin I got a library copy of ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ – quite chuffed about that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a lover of poetry and art, I immensely enjoyed every part of this post! How fascinating that the artist and the poet are friends. As I listened to Hunt’s poetry I could not help but think of something said by Robert Frost : “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” I must agree that Sam Hunt’s voice is “memorable”. The interview was a window into the man himself and I really loved the poem at the end…so much, that I jotted it into one of my little books! Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s wonderful that you enjoyed this post so much Ellen! I’m surprised, and that’s one of the great joys of blogging. I didn’t know if overseas visitors would relate to a post like this, it’s exciting to see it resonates with people far away!


  3. Great post, Liz! I do like that painting and using the info card for comparison the size of it is amazing. I have also had a look at some of Robin White’s other work and bio. What an interesting life in art she has had.

    I read the Sam Hunt interview you linked to and listened to some of his readings. How couldn’t I after reading your comment about liking his work after years of having that acne line stuck in your head! I can see why you have a better impression of him now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your response comes as a relief and made me smile, wasn’t sure if overseas folks would be interested. Thanks for your mention of Robin White, I didn’t have time to read further about her last night but I want to! Cheers Ellen!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! I see what you mean and his art is so interesting. I was immediately, on seeing it, drawn to ‘Moon and Cow’ 1963 and really love it SO much. Many others there I like very much too. Very glad you shared the link, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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