Author(s): Kendrick Smithyman
Imperial Vistas Family Fictions is a posthumous, previously unpublished, collection from a great New Zealand poet who died in 1995. These short and elegant poems date from the 1980s and give vignettes of his forebears, rich in anecdote and hearsay. We meet a cast of fascinating and vigorous characters from the poet's family tree. Grandfather Smithyman was taken by Indians after a shipwreck on the coast of Patagonia, later became harbourmaster at Ramsgate and broke both legs riding to hounds. Uncle Arthur was called 'Sticks' and 'never went to work except at / houseparties, cricketing, churchcrawling.' Father went to the Boer War, was a seafarer, adventurer, union man, teller of tales. The poet moves gradually into his own memories, of Te Kopuru and of Depression Auckland, the 1935 election and the Three Stooges. As he brings the family up to date we find we have covered a whole era of New Zealand's past, full of amazing detail. In these poems small and powerless lives intersect with history and families live on myths. Witty, moving and always unexpected, no other New Zealand poet writes like this and we are lucky to have this collection to remind us of a strong poet writing at the height of his powers. (Preceeding text courtesy www.auckland.ac.nz/aup) Paperback
Kendrick Smithyman was a distinguished poet who published a dozen collections, won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and also wrote a study of New Zealand poetry. Erudite, witty, prolific and dedicated, he taught for many years at the University of Auckland. He died in 1995.