Smithymania: Miscellaneous Notes (2003)

Jack Ross, ed.: brief 26 (February 2003)

Miscellaneous Notes:

Kendrick Smithyman

Jack’s Hole

The reference on the next page to “Simon” is to Simon During, who delivered a paper to the Auckland English Department in 1983 showing how the “Jack” of Sargeson’s story functions as a dramatised collection of tropes surrounding the “Hole” (or aporia) at our cultural centre.

Murray Beasley writes (Email to the editor, 12/2/02):
During published the piece (in AND?)pretty soon after. I seem to recall that Peter Dane also weighed in with a piece called ‘our recent departmental seminars’ in which he disparaged postmodernism as not worth Lawrentian fuck. Didn’t Kendrick identify Jack (helpfully or not) as a ‘well-known child molester’ who used to ride his pushbike shirtless around Newton Gully? Or does memory deceive?

Memory, it would appear, does not.


brief 26 (2003): 9.

[125 wds]

Uncollected Northland Poems

  • Debating One Specific Scene
    This poem, like “Pioneers” (Collected Poems II: 1951-55 [1951]), records Kendrick’s conviction that the stone lion at Waipu had had its more rampant parts censored by Calvinist elders.

  • Kaipara
    It’s hard to see why this one was rejected from the canon. “Dogs barking summer away” is one of my favourite Smithyman lines.

  • Low Tide
    This is the best attempt I can make to reconstruct a readable text from a somewhat confused typescript.

  • Whangamumu
    In style, a little like Robert Lowell’s “The Quaker Graveyard at Nantucket” (1946).

  • One Saturday on Extension
    Uncollected, despite having been published in Poetry & Audience XVI, 10 (1969).

  • Cliff Shelter
    Margaret Edgcumbe writes “This seems to belong to the Pioneers poem,” but it seems very different in substance and style. (There’s another poem called “Pioneers” in the Collected Poems, which I refer to above, but they’re not otherwise connected).

  • Pioneers
    There are two texts of this poem sequence. I’ve printed both here, side by side. The longer (undated) version has “To CP” [Collected Poems]” written at the bottom. The reason this was never done may be because it was superseded by the shorter, two-page text.

  • At Jacky Marmon’s Grave
    Kendrick wrote “delete this” at the top of the draft. He did a good deal of work on Jacky Marmon in the late sixties. Presumably it failed to live up to his expectations.

  • Of
    Margaret conjectures that this may have been intended for inclusion in Atua Wera.


brief 26 (2003): 20.
[Available at: nzepc features: Smithymania (2003)]

[256 wds]

The Firpo Essay

This essay, like various others in the Smithyman archive, was originally written for delivery as an English Department staff seminar. It was subsequently retyped for submission to the then editor of Landfall, David Dowling. It’s unclear whether it was ever sent, though, as this (third) typescript is still sitting in a manila folder among other unpublished prose works. Perhaps further revisions were contemplated.

Kendrick says in his covering letter (dated 31/8/86):
On p.6 (near foot) I refer perhaps cryptically to Mason giving Firpo a name, Tim Barlow, as ‘even less careful and a lot less tactful’, and on p.13 to Mason making his Firpo ‘a spindly scarecrow, “the thinnest man … ever seen”.’ The original Firpo was ‘puny – “a wretched specimen”’ but his actual name was Roy, which I refer to as ‘R’; but to complicate matters there was around Belmont, where Mason came from, an actual Tim, a spindly scarecrow, a wretched specimen whose appearance I suspect (and his feeblemindedness) has some bearing on Mason’s portrait of Firpo for, the question apart of what was reported to Mason who seems to have had little knowledge of the original local Firpo, Mason was more likely to have been aware of Tim, who was another “athlete”, being a great walker. He walked/shuffled the North Shore day after day, helped along with rides offered by delivery men, bus drivers, and so froth. He was probably the Shore’s best known figure, the perpetual boy in schoolboy cap and shorts, and hardly aging. I don’t want to make more of this, but I don’t want to pass over Tim completely. But Tim is still alive; he has at last aged; he gets around but not as much as he did; he now lives not far from me, at the IHC hostel.

I myself remember Tim quite well. He used to stride around carrying a net and various sacks of bottles which he collected for the deposit. My father once offered him a lift, but unfortunately one of these bags got dropped as he climbed out of the car, so there was a general feeling that he was happiest getting about under his own steam.

When I was working on a P.E.P. scheme in 1981, making concrete paths around the Golf Course in Campbells Bay, Tim would occasionally walk past our hut in Centennial Park. He was talkative and seemingly tireless. On one occasion he went into a rage, presumably because he thought that we were mocking him. I doubt we were, but after that we avoided each other.

So what? I suppose such details are part of being in the native soil. Kendrick apparently thought so. “Anyway, here it is,” as he concluded the letter.

I’ve reproduced the essay exactly as he left it.


brief 26 (2003): 56.

[463 wds]

Occasional Verses

Yes, and of course you’ve turned out splendid occasional pieces for Departmental functions – retirements, and so on: there can’t be many poets since Ben Jonson who could have met that sort of challenge so successfully.

So Mac Jackson, in his interview with Kendrick in Landfall 168 (1988): 416. Most of these pieces were circulated in typescript or manuscript to particular friends in the English Department. Don Smith has allowed me access to his own collection of them, and I’ve copied some of the less respectable ones onto the next page.

I was also tempted to reproduce “A Small but Highly Poetic Christmas Entertainment wherein are Commemorated the Severeal Foibles of Sevral Persons,” a five-page work (dating from the early eighties?) containing lampoons on virtually the whole Department:
Poor Margaret to the North Shore moved
Is asked of which she’s fonda:
Of Kendrick and his stickshift or
An automatic Honda.

To plot our planets as they rave
Came Cook the navigator.
A Pity that he didn’t have
Mac Jackson’s calculator
. …

Since most of the contents are either 1/ libellous or 2/ incomprehensible without extensive annotation, I reluctantly decided against it.

Don’s collection also includes a “Departmental Dinner Menu in honour of Professor S. Musgrove and Professor M. K. Joseph” (30 November 1979), 6 verses to accompany the various courses, as well as a signed copy of the full-dress poems written to commemorate the retirement of Peter Dane, Bill Pearson and Karl Stead (5 December 1986).

There are also odd little verses typed on sheets of Departmental notepaper:
The beaver doesn’t give a damn
That his tail should be fat as ham.
I don’t fink I should do so eiver

What does that mean? No doubt there’s some allusion I’m missing. What’s most important about these jeux d’esprit, though, is to note the degree to which Smithyman cast himself as a Departmental laureate. Dryden, or Ben Jonson, always seemed more acceptable as a self-image than Shelley – or James K. Baxter, for that matter.


brief 26 (2003): 92.

[335 wds]

brief 26 (2003)

No comments:

Post a Comment