t. 97, Sam Duckor Jones, People from the Pit Stand Up

Poeple from the Pit Stand Up
by Sam Duckor Jones

Wellington: VUP (2018)
RRP: $30.00. Pb, 107pp
ISBN: 9781776561933
Reviewed by Piet Nieuwland


This comparatively long first book of poems from the hand of a sculptor and potter is even in tone – light, airy and open.  The big pages punctuated with occasional simple illustrations by the author give the poems space to breathe. They are out there, sometimes graphically. Hearing Sam perform at Wellington’s Poetry at the Fringe recently confirmed this view; the poet reading sounds like the book – a gentle sinuous longing, a softly spoken flow punctuated by occasional humour.

The opening poem ‘You Are Here (p 12) starts in the local graveyard where the author finds out his connection with the place he has shifted to, Wairarapa. I like that idea. The following section explores the local community and some of his musical interactions with it.  For example, in ‘Suburban Rescue’ (p 29):

‘&she said

           I like it best        when Maria Callas     sets the hedge aquiver’

Central to the collection is ‘Blood Work’ (p 35), about the process, imaginings, frustrations and fantasies of a potter making a man, a clay man, out of Buff Raku Trachyte. I especially like ‘2   …instructions’ where the detail of his clay-man-making techniques are described, including clay purchase, tools required, and health and safety considerations. Also ‘16  …press’, curated from ceramic art exhibition catalogues, takes you into the creation of vessels.

There is humour here too.  Like in ‘Auckland (epilogue)’ (p 63) where the de-install has an unexpected outcome:

& he didn’t know I was the artist    he thought I was just some other

poor bloke who didn’t like the sculpture either         that I’d come on

down to wreck it

‘Two Ways of Going to Sleep’ (p 78), with its depictions of seaweed and rock, is intriguing:

Their entire lives are one long exfoliation treatment

           Beauty therapy for fatalist monks who accept a sandy repurposing

This is also very much a book of male intimacy where the vulnerabilities are linked by a fine neat thread – the birds – that runs through many of the pages. There are numerous birds present or calling, and one just happens to be dead.  The most distinctive are in ‘Lawns 8…meanwhile          west of Kaiwaewae’ (p 88):

& one bird says   hey-you

& one bird says   be-jewel

& one bird speaks for us all & says   wow-okay wow-okay wow-okay

Overall it’s a very easy read, interspersed with humour, surprise and humanity. As the title poem ‘People from the Pit Stand Up’ (p 19) states:

People do live here & have full & active lives.


Piet Nieuwland has poems and flash fiction appear in numerous print and online journals published in New Zealand, Australia, United States of America and Canada. He is a performance poet and book reviewer. He edits Fast Fibres Poetry and lives near Whangarei.