Book Review: Buddy’s Brother, by Pete Carter

cv_buddys_brotherAvailable at selected booksellers nationwide.

A mix of charming prose, poems and photography, Buddy’s Brother is Pete Carter’s second collection of poems. We discover that Buddy’s brother is in fact Pete’s father-in-law, a precocious 87-year-old, who has the same cheekiness and earthy nature as the poet himself.

There are shades of Barry Crump humour in this work, the kind of everyman writing style that spurns figurative language, or ‘riddles’ as Pete puts it, in favour of the matter of fact. Here is someone who calls a spade a spade. It’s a refreshing read, an amble through memoir and personal reflections, from a writer who loves his family and his pets. He may not like poems he doesn’t understand, but what he does know is the value of a sense of humour and the occasional jaunt (or cycle) to blow away the cobwebs and get things in perspective.

The centrepiece of the book is Pete’s reflective memoir of ticking off an important item on his bucket list, walking the South West Coast Path in the UK (over 1000 kilometres). It is a pilgrimage of sorts, in the footsteps of his father, who had a personal connection to the historic path. The photo reveals a quintessential lake district vista of stone walls and green, rolling hills. It wasn’t all a walk in the park however, to coin a phrase:

Some days were glorious, cliff-top walking at its finest, some days
were miserable, stuck between a barbed-wire fence and a hawthorn
hedge, unable to see the sea or the slippery path through brambles
and nettles and sweat.

Pete touches on the original purpose of the path – for coastguards to keep an eye out for smugglers. Regardless of any romantic tales and eccentric local hosts (a punk rocker who fought in the Falklands), the walk was mostly just hard yakka. ‘So I’ve done it. I’ve knocked the bastard off,’ he tells us. You can tell from the photo of him at the end of it, that it was taxing.

In between the slightly grumpy nostalgic prose, we have Pete’s photographs, and a smattering of poems about New Zealand birds. His portrait of the kereru is pleasing, the poem humorous: ‘an over-indulged specimen…the feathered glutton…they’re good eating apparently.’ It is caricature that brings a chuckle. His take on the tui borders on sacrilegious: ‘these swooping miscreants…with testicles on their throats…a gang of hyperactive flying kids…’ Not quite your usual Tourism New Zealand portrait of the much-loved bird. It’s curmudgeonly but somehow endearing, with similarities to Denis Glover.

Overall, reading Buddy’s Brother is akin to sitting down for a cuppa with your favourite uncle and having a laugh and a bit of a yarn.

Reviewed by Anna Forsyth

Buddy’s Brother
by Pete Carter
Published by Submarine
ISBN 9780994129901