A Chat with Tim Saunders

Manawatū farmer and poet Tim Saunders is coming to the Library as our guest author for Off The Page on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd September. On Friday Tim will discuss his work and books with (also a) poet and farmer Janet Newman. On Saturday he is hosting a poetry workshop. Registrations are open to attend the workshop – contact genny.vella@pncc.govt.nz to book your seat.

We asked Tim a few questions about his life and work to get the conversation started:

PNCL: You mention some great dog names in the article on The Spinoff. What’s the best dog name you’ve heard?

Tim: Most working dogs need a short, sharp name that rolls off the tongue easily. We have Sam at the moment, and before him we had Chip and Zing and Boss and Pete. Dad once bought a dog called Phillip, but had to change its name to Pip because yelling “Go away back Phillip” was too much of a mouthful. I also knew a shepherd once who named every single dog he owned Ned. He ran a pack of around 10 working dogs, and we were inundated with dogs whenever he shouted “Get in behind Ned.”

PNCL: When drafting sheep, do you count them in multiples? (eg. fives? twos?) Does that affect the rhythm of your poetry?

Tim: Dad used to tell me to count their legs and then divide by four… There are many rhythms on the farm that can influence poetry. Working with animals and observing the changes in season give poetry a natural metre and cadence. Animals have a particular poetry in the way they move and behave, and to capture their essence and beauty in words is very satisfying.

PNCL: Tell us the best farming TV show theme tune. You can choose either A Dog’s Show or Country Calendar. Which will it be?

Tim: Maybe mash-up between the two – we could call it A Dog’s Calendar.

Q: How old were you when you noticed a poetic tendency? What were your early poems about?

Tim: I didn’t really start to write poetry until I was in my thirties. I have always written short stories, but poetry seemed quite daunting and academic. I think the way it was taught at school didn’t help. But as I got older I really started to appreciate the craft of writing poetry, and the ability to convey a story using its most basic elements. I have never taken a formal class or workshop on poetry, I learnt the craft purely from reading poems and taking them apart to see how they worked. I try to write poems from my own observations and experiences, but they are not always rurally based.

Q: Is there a season that particularly resonates with or inspires you for your writing?

Tim: I think the changes between seasons are inspiring. The little gaps where the elements are neither one thing nor the other. Those times that we don’t normally notice, the gradual changes. That’s where the magic happens.

Thanks Tim! We’re looking forward to having you this week. And we look forward to welcoming the public to talk seasons, farming and poetry with us.