I had the great fortune yesterday of running into Sam Hunt.

Years earlier we'd met at a function where it was too loud for me to gauge how seamlessly cool he was.

No such trouble yesterday.

In Hastings to launch Alex Tylee's new book If I Was a Banana, the listing poet was held up by stove-pipe jeans atop brown pointy boots.

Advertisement

Unbuttoned and unbrushed, he was doing his impersonation of an unmade bed.

We share a reverence for James K Baxter, so as he begins to recite some gravelly lines I'm left questioning, again, why the people's poet has never been crowned our Poet Laureate.

I suspect it's because performance poetry - the express aisle of verse - has been his undoing. Live readings tend to underscore clumsy perceptions of poetry - the overdone romantic, the bawdy, the drunk, the jester.

It's robbed him of the clout he fully deserves on the page, which, at least to this writer, is his real strength.

Still masquerading as a timeless youngster in his 70th year, he tells me about his "girlfriend", and how he's forgotten, momentarily, where he lives. I envy his colourful cache of beatnik memories.

I wanted to suggest he move here, given nothing's permanent for Sam. His lines about a fleeting visit to the Mangaweka Pub suggest as much: "They ask me why I travel & never settle down, I lost two games of pool, & hitchhike out of town".

On leaving, I realise his leather satchel mocks him: worn smooth with age, swinging freely, mouth wide open with letters tumbling from it.

Welcome Sam. Don't rush away. Stay a while. Your pace is balm.