I have a photograph of
Sam Hunt. I took it looking
up at him from the floor.
My jaw down by my camera,
and me in awe of it all
It was about 20 years ago and
I had been reading his words for
at least 10 years then – I had met
him briefly outside the pub in
Hastings where he was looking
to cadge a fag after reciting Baxter
and quoting lines from Dylan, Lou Reed
and Keith Richards.
I told him – in nervous schoolboy rising
voice – that I loved Lou Reed, and knew
the New York album he’d referenced; my
favourite. I hadn’t had to tell him I snuck into
the pub underage – and when he asked me
for a durry I was almost embarrassed to be
a healthy non-smoker.
He signed my book, “Simon, from one Lou Reed
man to another, Sam”
and I could only ever read it in his voice – like
a poem only he might ever write.
I loaned that book out to someone many years
later – never got it back.
A year after taking this photograph of
Sam shaking the poems from his shoulders
I was his opening act. Nervously I read a
poem about how ‘history’ and ‘opinion’
were both seven letter words, but only
one fits correctly into the crossword – and
this was inspired by the cross words me and
my wife were having as she was focused on
completing the newspaper puzzle and I had
become Sermon Sweetman – going on about
how Elvis really was the best – the greatest, the
first, the one.
After my set there was a note at the bar to join
Sam in his room – and I did. He had a bottle of
wine he wanted to share, said he didn’t like hanging
in the bar for too long during other people reading
because he’d get bugged by the punters and it wasn’t
fair – to him, or the person on stage or the others in
the pub there to listen.
We drank the wine and he told me he had seen a couple
of my poems and I’d done a good job – and he liked
very much the one about the crossword. I told him, far
too quickly, that he could have it and shuffled through
the pages to hand him that poem.
He nodded and several seconds later he declared,
“Well, alright!” He stood in the stovepipes and then
opened a little vintage suitcase. Mumbling as he showed
me his kid’s school photo (he carried it in the case with
him, it was the whole class photo, covered in gladwrap and
his son’s five year old face was circled in red marker)
he said something like, “well, you’ve given me some of
your very best words – I’d like to give you some good words too…”
He shuffled through typed pages and then paused to look
at one a while. Then loudly said, “Yeah. Yeah. I’d like to
give you some Wordsworth” – as he handed me a cover-poem
which made total sense since the sum worth of his own words
is forever held in his head.
I kept that Wordsworth poem in a folder for years – then
lost it or binned it or loaned it out like the signed book
never to return.
I’ve got that photograph still.
I look at it most days.