Sam Hunt was a performance poet before any New Zealander knew there was such a thing as a performance poet. I remember, as a student, being asked to meet Sam Hunt in our school carpark and guide him to our auditorium where he was to address our year group. Even his arrival was performance poetry as he drove up and unfolded himself from the driver’s seat. His whole demeanour was relaxed and carefree, he happily shook my hand and followed me to the stage – which he then possessed and kept us entertained, loving every word he spoke.
His website proclaims proudly that he is the best poet New Zealand has ever had. He is probably the one who has sold the most books and has travelled the length and breadth of the country.
Instead of reading Hunt’s poems we really need to experience them. Below is the TEDx Talk he gave in Auckland in December 2012. He mostly performs poetry and in between, he treats us to some of the reasons he writes poetry.
His dog Minstrel featured in his poetry – whimsical bow wow poems which as students we loved. When Washington Post reporter, Michael Kernan went to meet and interview Sam Hunt in 1983, they witnessed a Beagle being hit by a car. Hunt says to him that he should write the dog a Bow-wow poem and goes on to share the one he wrote for Minstrel when his leg was ripped open in a trap. In his review of the book “Coming to it – Selected Poems” published in 2018, Howard Davis includes a Bow Wow poem and others in his article about the life and work of Sam Hunt. Russell Baillie’s review of the same book for “The Listener” includes video of Sam in performance. Both articles are tributes to Sam Hunt the man and the poet.
Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego