had logo

January 30, 2023

Free Range Poets

Jordan Hamel

The last time I went away for a weekend orgy, I didn’t realise I was going away for a weekend orgy. Sweet, naïve, man boy, ready for a wholesome weekend with friends at a Wairarapa farmhouse Airbnb to celebrate Jessie’s 30th birthday. I didn’t question why no one seemed excited at my suggestion to visit the native bird sanctuary on the way. I didn’t question why Jessie brought all her anti-union tech colleagues she complains about, and I didn’t question why Anders, the Swedish backpacker/freelance yogi, who no one seemed to know well, was joining us.

The house was earnest and rural: framed pictures of various prized sheep, a bedroom for children decorated with Pixar paraphernalia, a lounge with a copper fireplace, and a kitchen with a wooden sign saying ‘Bless this Mess’ hanging above it. Jessie drops her bags, puts on a Troye Sivan album and starts making out with Anders. No one else seemed surprised. I don’t know why I even bothered to bring the Settlers of Catan expansion pack my sisters bought me for Christmas. A software engineer stokes my hair and says ‘so, you’re the poet’, while a UX product manager undresses and tells me how much she loves Rupi Kaur. A senior policy advisor deepthroats my arm, wrapping his tongue around my wrist like a baby giraffe, Anders asks Jessie if she’s ever been to Gothenburg, a Buzz Lightyear action figure looks on in horror.

I wrestle myself free and walk outside. The day starts to kneel for the night, an old man on the neighbouring farm, flannel shirt soaked in milk and shit, leaves his dairy shed on a quad bike to return home to his wife. He spits into the wind, looks in the direction of our Airbnb, then speeds into the darkness, he’ll return for the next milking at first light. Jessie joins me outside and says don’t worry, this is what people in tech do for their significant birthdays, surely poets do the same? Isn’t that why we are how we are? I look up and the stars form an open mouth, ready to swallow the moon.


I want to take all the poets to a big farm. Established poets, emerging poets, submerging poets, all of them. I don’t want to fuck all the poets; I just want to care for them; reckless, meandering, ephemeral, beauties, little baby deer on ice, skittering through life, avoiding maths, emails and most forms of gluten. I’ll build them a barn to sleep in. I’ll drill holes in the roof so they can watch the constellations. I’ll furnish it with hay and bean bags and Anne Carson biographies. I’ll feed them stone fruit out of my hand, palm flat, as they suck the plum juice off my fingers. I’ll braid their hair and call them good boys. I’ll give them fields to sow, chickens to coup and a cow named ‘fellowship’ for all their dairy needs.

I’ll stay at the farm too of course. I’m not one of those poets who thinks they aren’t like other poets. But I’ll take the truck into town for provisions sometimes. I’ll come back with armfuls of granola and tarot cards, and news from the outside world. I’ll tell them they have all been accepted into the latest issue The Paris Review, and every future issue for that matter. I’ll tell them they’ve all won prizes and arts grants from their respective governments. I’ll tell them how much the world mourns their disappearance, while I scratch their chins and draw their baths. We’ll sit round the fire at night swapping gossip and songs and horror stories about failed sestinas, we’ll hold hands and talk about how grateful we are to be here, together.


Night rises with the frost. Jessie and I sit outside in the paddock under a Monsters Inc blanket. I ask her if she’s having a nice birthday. She says she’s accomplished things in her thirty years she thought she never would, and she’s starting to get bored. I tell her I’ve made $650 from poetry in the last three years, before tax. I tell her the poets I know don’t have group sex excursions to celebrate their birthdays, mostly we just sing karaoke and eat mid-range cheese. She says this house could be a great place for a writing residency, if the owners ever perform some sort of cleansing ritual to kill the demons tonight birthed. Jessie wants to retire at fifty, move to the coast and found the Wairarapa Swingers’ Association. I ask if I could be Vice-President or Treasurer, but she says no, because she’s one of those tech people who thinks art is important but doesn’t trust artists. I don’t object, because deep down maybe I’m one of those artists who thinks art is important but doesn’t trust artists.  She asks if I still would have come if I knew. The frost settles, the night sky chokes on the moon’s cock, cows moan in surrounding paddocks.