Horse with Hat

Reviews for Horse with Hat

'Alternately comic, wry, downbeat, vernacular, lyrical;  yet it is also at times dark, plangent and moving'

Emma Neale

The Poetry Shelf

'This is a simply beautiful book.

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'       

Booksellers New Zealand

' you travel through sumptuous lines and layers. This is no rose-tinted memoir—you get grit and you get open views, you get life’s awkwardness and you get empathy.'

The Poetry Shelf

'These poems sometimes give the impression of standing on the side of the road when a car swooshes past and you feel it shake the air in front of your face, tipping you a step backwards.' 


See media page for these reviews in full


A small marriage between some poems and photos

Dad's Horses

darken out the sun
I am at their knees looking up 
at the lode star of the stirrup 
and my four-storey father. 

I meet him on the road,
he puts me up on the saddle 
while he walks below
and I sway on my horse tower 
with the sky swelling. 

At three, he lets me hold the reins. 
A bird bursts out, the horse flies me 
head first onto the metal road. 
Out cold. Stones in my ears, 
he carries me home. 

We have to learn everything bareback. 
Dad’s horses, slippery, ripple like water 
we have to hang on with our knees
— Get Straight Back On. 

Sit Up.
I copy Dad’s model of the upright style—
Dad and Kimmy over wire in the Hunter class
at the Dannevirke show—hanging still
they jump across the walls of my flats, my houses, 
to remind me of old-fashioned grace
and to rein back. 

In rain, in wind, the hills
lean in as he gets smaller
and I kick and kick my pony to keep in sight. 
He rides on in front. I want to call him back, cry, Wait. 

We are allowed to visit at Christmas time 

I’m on the driveway we don’t go up in a dress I never wear.

My mother and her mother,
the dark firs whispering behind.

I watch them as they drink their tea.
Christmas lilies spilling pink scents—
my grandmother comes as a haze of flowered frocks she advances across the lawn, 
concealing her net. She wants to know everything: my cat, my kitten my school, my horse, my house—
she uses a particular sweet jam note
to find out about my father—aha
he’s back at home
slashing the heads off thistles. 


Precious to them

You absolutely must be kind to animals
even the wild cats.

Grandad brought me a little tiny baby hare,
don’t you tell your grandma
I’ve brought it inside and put it in the bed.

He put buttered milk arrowroot biscuits, slipped them in my pockets to go down for early morning milking
you mustn’t tell your grandma, I’m putting all this butter in the biscuits.

They weren't religious or anything like that

You can trace countless tiny lines down history

say cypress, cedar—such sounds seed in children

growing years forward as scents, as words: myrrh

bitter herbs  a lump of musk a stone hewn out of the dark earth

the thrown-open emerges like the stars themselves,  

like the Christmas star standing still in space

in Dad’s old Family Bible with gold edges and painted pages

plates of Arabia engraved with names: Canaan Sinai Judea

the Dead Sea the road to Damascus the sun in my eyes the blinding

colours if cerulean and damask and rose coloured robes

endless sands the men in bare feet and ships and sails

they came from the East through the dusty light of our lounge

balancing on the edge of invisibility as we stared

at the sea of Galilee.  I’ve been there, he said, In the war. It’s a lake.

Bethlehem itself is like all the other old world towns

It is impossible for me to describe the Church of the Nativity

nor the feelings as I saw and touched and walked in places

which I came to learn of whilst in Sunday school.

Once again we passed through and so back to the outside world,

which for a time I had forgotten.

Leaves from the trees at Gethsemane, Christmas

the cypress inside the house like cedar or myrrh

like the hedge at church. He never goes

except if we’re dressed as shepherds or lambs he watches

his flocks and sings Silent Night in his deep church voice

and we’re heavy with robes, plaited ropes, date palms

the Christmas tree, the inn, the lovely dusted stars

the manger, the firs all tipped in snow

the footsteps deep and dark and even.






Want to see a bit of process? This is Uncle Kiwi talking at a family reunion. I took some of what he said, changed a few things and used it on the page These are the characters as a way of putting in backstory.

Gwen contributes a great line.