Book Review: Horse with Hat, by Marty Smith. Collages by Brendan O’Brien

This is a simply beautiful book.cv_horse_with_hat

Marty Smith’s poems are by turns quirky, sad, punchy, amusing, thought-provoking, and above all they provide a sense of time and place and family in  a way that just makes you want to read all the way through.

Which I did.

And then of course I had to go back, because I went a bit fast and missed some things! I felt quite a connection to the people represented in the poems. A large and complex family, with huge horses, farming in tough country – nothing like my own background in the slightest; so I think Marty Smith has created magic in enabling the reader to make that connection to her family. I’d love to know what other people have found on reading this book.

I found the short untitled poems – often about the war – remarkably powerful. In fact the evocation of the after-effects of war on New Zealand families is a strong vein through the entire work.

Brendan O’Brien’s collages brilliantly support the poetry in the book – being poetic in their own right. They made me stop and think, trying to work out which parts of which poems are represented – but that’s a puzzle to which there may be no correct answer, and maybe it doesn’t matter, because they enhance the book in such a delightful way.

Since I am a  reader who does not usually rush to the latest poetry on offer, I find that this book has made me want to explore further – and in particular I look forward to finding what else Marty has written (though this is her first collection), and as well I am going to find everything illustrated by Brendan O’Brien.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Horse with Hat
by Marty Smith, Collages by Brendan O’Brien
Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739278