Elle (theroadtoelle) wrote,

Quintessentially Kiwi

In terms of exposure to poetry when I was younger, the only other poet who comes to mind is Barry Crump. Now, in all honesty, I never thought of Barry Crump as a poet. He was a novelist, and he appealed to New Zealanders because he was...quintessentially Kiwi. Not like John Clarke's Fred Dagg (oh hey, he might have done poetry too!) but a genuine Kiwi 'bloke' who didn't pretty shit up, but told it like it was. He was a hunter, and he lived a no-frills life in the bush, and Kiwis respected him. He was the genuine article.

But yes, as well as writing novels, Barry Crump wrote poems. It's actually hard to find his stuff online, because he passed away in 1996 before the internet really had a chance to take off. I only managed to find two of his poems online. I really need to buy a book of his poetry, because I do like his style and his subjects both. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but that's okay.

Time of Day
by Barry Crump

At that time of day
when the world turns away form the sun
and the last traces of sunlight
are gone from the ridgetops,
I lead my old horse down a wild river valley
with two trout in the split sack
behind the saddle.

Around the bend I see great wires
strung swooping from pylon to pylon
across the sky.

And I wonder how come
it makes that moment of sadness
waft through my thoughts,
and puts that mournful note
in the cry of the putangitangi.

Song of the Drifter
by Barry Crump

I’ve cut me load and that’s me song, it’s time I hit the track
I’ve been round here for far too long and now I’m headin’ back
I’m splittin’ from this worn out scene, I’m packin’ up me gear
I’m takin’ off for pastures green, I’m snatchin’ it from here.
I’ve heard the things they said to me, I’ve bogged meself in stuff
I’ve took responsibility and now I’ve had enough
So good luck, mate, I’m movin’ on, I’ll leave the place to you
And if they ask you where I’ve gone, just tell them I shot through.
And if we meet some other place, no stranger will you be
I’ll remember name and face, you’ve all been good to me
I’ll greet you like a brother, I’ll make you laugh somehow
And then one day I’ll drift away just like I’m doin’ now.

But to really appreciate Barry Crump I think you have to imagine his craggy face and that voice. I've known a few Kiwis with similar voices, and to a man, they've all been farmers. To me, it's the voice of rural New Zealand. And you can't read Barry Crump's poetry without imagining his voice drawling out those lines.

Barry Crump was hired by Toyota to do a series of TV advertisements. They ran for...maybe ten years? And they were much loved by the general public. They featured Barry as himself, and a guy called Scotty who I think worked for the ad company at the time. Scotty comes down to show Barry his brand new ute (pickup truck?), raving about all its fancy features - Barry just puts it to the test and shows Scotty how it should really be driven. As the series of advertisements goes on, there's a few like that, then one where Scotty drives Barry around the city, turning the tables on him, then a couple where they sing and what-have-you. They were great ads. Anyway, in one of them, Barry recites a poem he wrote about Toyota utes. It's not the world's best poem. It's not even Barry's best poem. But it will let you hear that voice of his. It's also his classic style of poetry. Whenever I read anything of his, I imagine him reading it aloud while sitting before a campfire. It's just that kind of poetry. It's not meant to be dramatic or over-acted, or even silent. It's meant to be quietly shared with nature. Anyway, you can make up your own mind, but yeah, this is a real bit of nostalgia for me.

I was just watching a few other things on Youtube, and there's actually a clip of him reading an excerpt of that second poem, Song of the Drifter, in the news bulletin about his death. There's obviously more footage out there, it's just a matter of finding it.
Tags: poetry
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