Book Review: Private Bestiary: Selected Unpublished Poems, 1944-1993 by Kendrick Smithyman, edited by Scott Hamilton

Private BestiaryPrivate Bestiary: Selected Unpublished Poems, 1944-1993 by Kendrick Smithyman, edited by Dr Scott Hamilton, Titus Books, ISBN 9781877441172, RRP $34.95, Available now.

Poetry, to me, is like music. You feel it in your soul. Even if you can’t play a note/write a sonnet to save yourself, you still know good music/poetry.

Kendrick Smithyman is probably a name heard of but not familiar to the general New Zealand reading public (outside of NZ Lit 101 students) but Private Bestiary is the perfect example of why this really shouldn’t be the case. It’s a collection of unpublished poetry from Smithyman (who was a prolific NZ writer during last century, writing poetry, criticism and literary history).

Editor Scott Hamilton* accompanies the selected poems with a short but insightful biographical overview of Smithyman’s life, times and career, as well as a note on every poem with context and background.

And it’s all fascinating! Insights into the drudgery of Smithyman’s WW2 service, his domestic life in the 60s and 70s, even just documenting a stay in a dreary small town motel – it almost seems he wrote about everything, and in a rare (but not rarefied) voice.

Hamilton makes a point about Smithyman’s poetry being considered “radical” during his lifetime, particularly by literary editors of the day who by and large seem to have been mostly rather conservative in their choice of poetry to publish.**

The irony now is that it’s Smithyman’s difference in voice that makes his poetry so enjoyable to read; you can hear a person’s voice – not just a poet’s. As Hamilton says:

The truth is that Smithyman was not some convoluted, self-absorbed word-geek, but a man with a great deal to say to his fellow New Zealanders… The best of the poems Smithyman left behind are carefully crafted, multi-faceted portraits of New Zealand’s past, present, and possible futures. They should be seen as part of the cultural inheritance of every Kiwi.

With Private Bestiary Hamilton and Titus Books have contributed a vital piece in ensuring that happens.

the sky looked at the ranges

and the ranges bent back at the sky

*Also known as Maps from the stonkingly awe-inspiring blog Reading the Maps.

**Which got me pondering how times have changed with regards to content publishing. Writers of Smithyman’s time who wanted to publically publish writing were so behoven to the opinions of others – unlike today where, let’s face it, this blog is a prime example of the interwebs ethic – have content, will publish. I’m not reliant on literary journals or similar publications to find an audience for my writing. We have an amazing choice; to publish and to read in different voices.

And I’m honest enough to know that my blathering about books is probably not “Landfall” material. So the editors of Landfall don’t have to be all “Unicorns is not an adjective” and I don’t have to be all “I am The Writer and I will bend the language to my will” and you don’t have to be all “We only get one choice in our reading about reading and it doesn’t have enough unicorns.” Interwebs win!

Guest Post : Mr Monster reviews!

As some of you know Mr Monster runs his own website Military Models and he does occasionally do book reviews (as well as scale model news, scale model kit reviews and general WW2 flim flam. I’m probably not supposed to call it flim flam.) I thought it would be something different and interesting to see a review of a book from a niche publisher – and a reminder that books encompass such a huge range of interests. So without further ado… please welcome Mr Monster!

Book Review – Panzers In The Bocage

(Under The Gun Series Number 1)

The Oliver Publishing Group is a book publisher based in Australia who provide a high quality range of reference books on armour. They began trading as The Oliver Publishing Group in May of 2009 when they broke with The Factory Publishing ( themselves a publisher of armour related books ). Panzers in the Bocage : German Armour in the Battles For Normandy was their first independent title and the first in the “Under The Gun” series which uses photos of disabled or captured vehicles together with photo plates showing various camouflage and marking options.

If you’re familiar with the Panzerwreck  and the Panzer Colour series of books then this one takes both concepts and meshes them together, and does it well. The quality of the black and white photos is very good, with the clean-up of the originals done extremely well, giving good clear images.

The first five pages give a very useful short summary of the units in the area, including who served with who, some of the vehicles they are known to have had, and when and where they fought. One page is a VERY handy table of the 21st Panzer Division strength with what units had what vehicles. This is complemented by a similar table on the inside of the back cover which covers Tiger units in Normandy from June to August of 1944.

The second and last quarter of the book ( the two B&W photo sections ) is actually very reminiscent of the Panzerwreck books ( presented in portrait rather than landscape ) with two to three photos per page accompanied by text describing each photo. The text appears to be well researched which is always an important point for those of us familiar with some publishers’ “take a wild guess” type text.

The first section of black and white photos is very Panther focused, with the last section covering Tigers, StuGs, half-tracks and some SPGs and artillery. The centre eight page section, together with the back cover, is made up of colour artwork plates showing various camouflage and marking options on vehicles covering predominatly Panthers, Tigers, StuGs and Sd.Kfz.251 halftracks.

This coloured section is a huge help when it comes to referencing vehicles as they were at the time of the post Normandy landing battles in and around the Bocage. The layout is very similar to similar artwork in the Panzer Colour books ( which are likely better known to those of us who do actually get into the whole research thing ), or even the colour sheets that accompany Bison decals.

I love these sorts of books, for me they’re hugely useful in researching ideas for builds and for getting an idea for how a particular unit marked and painted their vehicles. But even if you’re not the sort who really cares whether or not the markings on your model are historically accurate to the month and the town these are a facinating read, just looking over the various photos of wrecks left behind.

This looks to be the beginning of a great series of books and this particular one should be a great refence point for anyone looking for some good, decent sized, decent qulity images of vehicles on the battlefields of the Bocage. I do like when books like this are specific to a particular location/point in time and I’m looking forward to more of the same.

Author : Karl Berne

Publisher : Oliver Publishing Group ( www.oliverpublishinggroup.com )

Pages : 34 containing B&W Photos and colour artwork plates

Binding : Softcover

Size : 212mm x 297mm

ISBN : 978-0-9806593-0-6

BookieMonster’s sales and sympathy pitch

So I am a bad blogger, bad bad BAD blogging monkey! I have not been entertaining you like I should with my witty words and general gab.

But SRSLY I am BUSY you guys! I just have an amazing amount of stuff going on. My life is stuffed with stuff. Some of it involves reading and books but at the moment, not enough!

BookieMonster's BookshopYou can help – please buy from us! We’ve got almost 800 listings at the moment and I know it’s a lot to go through but duuuuuuuude – there’s got to be something in there for everyone!

Father’s Day is coming up you know. Hint, hint.

And if you don’t feel like buying anything then please tell (send the link http://www.trademe.co.nz/Members/Listings.aspx?member=1998646, go on) your family, your friends, your enemies, your workmates, your neighbours, your cats, your dogs – open up a bank account in your guinea pig’s name and get them to buy a book! (“Hello, I’d like to open an account.” “Certainly sir, and first may I have your name?” “Mr Fluffykins McSnugglebottom the Third.”)

However if, by same insanely crazy thousand to one chance you don’t want any of the books we have for sale (srsly, what are you on?) then check out Book Depository UK and our affiliate link – they have MILLIONS AND MILLIONS (and miwwions) of books for sale and you don’t pay any shipping at all whatsoever nosirreebob so help them.

The BookDepository

And, if after all that you’re wondering what’s keeping me busy (apart from the usual) then you should check out my Posterous blog AtNgaire in which I link to all sorts of web malarkey that captures my fancy and write about exciting things like social media, online marketing, community management and basically anything else I want. Yes, I’m one of those wonks. But you can be one of them too, just by commenting – or really, just send me cool stuff to put on there. It’s fun.

Not leastly you should totally check out the amazingly awesomely extraordinarily choice Groupy and grab yourself a besty deal. They’ve been keeping me busy too.

Right-o! :D

Addition: I meant to add also if your Dad isn’t the reading type but is the obsessive with detail and military models type – or just a military buff then check out Mr Monster’s site at www.militarymodels.co.nz – he’s running a huuuuuge Father’s Day sale over there! Plus he’s all real clever and stuff. We loves him. ♥ Awwwwwwwww.

The Widow’s Daughter – a different perspective

One of the great things about the interwebs is reading all the perspectives and opinions on books – a perfect example is the new novel by New Zealand author Nicholas Edlin, The Widow’s Daughter, which as you know I didn’t enjoy – but for a totally different and much more positive experience of the same book check out this great review by A Certain Book :

The Widow’s Daughter by Nicholas Edlin

The Widow's Daughter