Henry Clayworth                       Photo by Julian Hermann

The Old Man and the Sea

Sun, sea, salt, fish stink,
Blood, fish scales and petrol fumes,
“Sea’s like piss on a plate,
She’s fresh as a fart in springtime.”
We strain pulling nets into the boat,
Laden with green, red and orange weed,
Doggies, snapper and a stingray or two,
“Fishing’s not what it used to be.”
Probably never was,
The old man goes apeshit,
“Come on, pull, you useless bastard,
You’re like a one-armed paperhanger,
Useless as tits on a bull.”
Gleaming sky turns grey,
Tangaroa gets restless,
And Tawhirimatea a bit stroppy.
“She’s blowing like 40 bastards,
Sea’s coming up rough as guts,
Rain’s coming down as fast as whores’ drawers.”
The old man laughs at the waves,
And we’re off with a hiss and a roar,
Then it’s down the pub for a few quick ones,
“A few beers and a bit of a yarn.”
The old man at the bar,
A Pakeha Maui
In his plastic sandals,
A nylon net
For his mother’s jawbone,
A string of obscenities
For his Karakia.


by Peter Clayworth

from Otago University Students Literary Review Centenary Edition 1888-1988

Dr Peter Clayworth is a Nelson-born historian, researcher and writer who now lives in Wellington. Peter is also my partner. He wrote this poem – about fishing trips with his dad – many years ago. Last week he read it out at his dad’s funeral in Nelson. Peter’s father had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, while he was over in Golden Bay white-baiting – doing something he loved in a place he loved. He was 83. Rest in Peace, Henry Clayworth: mechanic, fisherman, whitebaiter, spinner of yarns.

Henry Clayworth                                                      Photo by Julian Hermann


Mary Janis Pen

Mary, Janis, Penelope

This is me with Mary McCallum (print publisher of the ‘Year of Falling’) and Penelope Todd from Rosa Mira Books (e-book publisher of ‘The Year of Falling’) at the Library Bar last night.

If you’d like a copy of the e-book, this is where you can buy it. The green $NZ12 button will take you to a Paypal link (you don’t need a Paypal account) and you can choose your preferred format there. And here’s the Q&A.

Many thanks to Penelope and Mary. Here’s to Rosa Mira and Makaro Press!

Year of falling small

In further cybernews, one of my poems from The Glass Rooster is currently featuring on Tim Jones’ blog. Thanks Tim!

Year of falling small

Well, I’m very happy to say that The Year of Falling is being made into an e-book, thanks to Rosa Mira Books, fine e-publishers of such titles as Slightly Peculiar Love Stories, which includes my short story, ‘Mill’.

To celebrate this, I shall be partaking in a quiet glass of bubbly at the Library Bar on Courtenay Place next Monday and it would be lovely if you could join me (clink clink!)

Monday 21st September 6pm – 8pm
Library Bar
Upstairs, 53 Courtenay Place, Wellington



Also, I was delighted to have two very nice reviews of TYOF last weekend. Siobhan Harvey, writing in the Dominion Post, said:

“Richly peopled and companioned by an absorbing plot, Janis Freegard’s The Year of Falling is a superb first foray into novel writing.” (full review on Stuff here)

and David Hill, in the NZ Herald said:

“Freegard controls a substantial cast adroitly, and makes you care about each one of them, even loathsome Randall and bubble-brained Bailey.” (full review on NZ Herald site here).


Feeling all fluffed up after that.

2015-09-05 23.17.49





Recently some of my Alice Spider poems were chosen to be part of an excellent online anthology about Pukehau/Mt Cook. The poems were first published in the online journal Turbine in 2002 and reprinted in AUP New Poets 3 in 2008. This got me thinking about the various Mt Cook flats I lived in, back when I was in my twenties.

In 1985, I flatted in a two-storey house in Rugby Street by the Basin Reserve with three other people – different people at different times. There were parties. There were squabbles over who had burnt out the element in the jug. There was meatloaf, an alphabetised record collection and a weekly gathering around the television to watch Dallas. German journeymen would occasionally appear on the couch. A three-legged cat we called Tripod would wander in for a pat. One flatmate made great homemade Irish cream (similar to Bailey’s); another had a terrific recipe for marinated raw fish. A flatmate who cleaned for a law firm occasionally liberated a nice bottle of wine from the partners’ stash and brought it home to share.

Alice Spider swallows a goldfish 001

Swallowing a “live goldfish” (mandarin orange segment out of a tin).

Vigil 001


Some years later, I was disappointed to learn our house had been bowled – along with three other perfectly good, sound houses – to make way for a Repco Autoparts store. Every time I walked past, I felt like pasting up a photo of the old place that said ‘LOST: Have you seen this house?’

One pill Mt Cook grafitto

Interestingly, this graffito appeared some years later at the spot where our flat used to be. Another Alice at the site, with lyrics from Grace Slick’s (Jefferson Airplane) ‘White Rabbit’.

My second time in Mt Cook came a few years later – a flat in Hankey Street with two other women. One stormy evening, a friend brought a kitten around, wrapped in her raincoat. She’d found him, apparently abandoned and half-starved, near the dairy. She already had cats of her own and couldn’t take in another. I hadn’t planned to get a cat, thinking I moved around too much, but I couldn’t resist this tiny, shivering, flea-infested bundle. My flatmate had spotted him previously but he was wary of people and she hadn’t been able to catch him. Now he was close to giving up.

I took him to the vet the next morning in a cardboard box that said Whole Baby Beans and Whole Baby Carrots. ‘Snatched from the jaws of death,’ the vet proclaimed, before pumping him full of antibiotics and offering a 50:50 chance of survival. He told me to keep the kitten warm and give him baby food. I took him to work in his little box (the kitten, not the vet), stopping at a pharmacy on the way for tinned baby food, Bone-Gro and a hot water bottle shaped like a cat. He spent the day under my desk at the Department of Conservation, good as gold, climbing out to eat his meals and back in again where his hot bottle water kept him warm. Workmates who might normally have taken a dim view of cats popped around during the day to see how he was getting along.

Over the next few weeks, he struggled back to health. I called him Spike. We lived together for nineteen years and I loved him.

The third time I lived in Mt Cook was in a flat in a block of four in Anderson Terrace. This time it was just me and Spike, my first time living (almost) alone. The only part I didn’t enjoy about being there was that my next-door neighbour worked shifts and I routinely woke up at 2 am when I heard his car.

Later, Spike and I moved to Mt Vic, then Berhampore and finally Vogeltown, where I promised him he’d never have to move again. He’s buried in the garden. I still miss him.

Janis & Spike in box 001

Whole baby beans, whole baby carrots, whole baby kitten.


It’s National Poetry Day in New Zealand on Friday and there are poetry events across the country. Here’s the full calendar of events and a link to the Facebook page.

I will be reading at an event in Lower Hutt on Friday evening. Here’s more:

Poems of Place; Landscape Poetry and Open Mic
We live in a land of hills, river and sea. We experience wild changes in our weather and our remoteness affects who we are as a people in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Much of our literature and poetry reflects our unique landscape. This National Poetry Day event held in Lower Hutt will feature writers reading their landscape poetry and reflecting on what this means for them. There will be an opportunity during the open mic for people to read their own or their favourite author’s poetry on the subject of nature, landscape and the environment. Everyone is welcome, poets, poetry-lovers and those interested in the local environment. Featuring the poets Anne Powell, Harvey Molloy, Kerry Hines, Keith Westwater, Tim Jones, Adrienne Jansen, Kerry Popplewell, Keith Johnson and Janis Freegard.

Entry Details: Free. Open to all ages. Sign up for the open mic on the night.
Date/Times: 28 August, 7.30 – 9.30pm.
Location: St Marks Complex 58 Woburn Road, Lower Hutt. Opposite the Lower Hutt Library

Further Info:


Te Rerenga Wairua / Cape Reinga

A number of people have kindly enquired as to the wellbeing of ‘The Year of Falling’ and ‘The Glass Rooster’, so I thought it might be time for an update. I do feel as though I have released hand-reared orphaned wild things out into the world to seek their fortunes and I’m very much hoping they don’t fall into a ravine or get eaten by bears.

glass rooster cover

So how’s The Glass Rooster?

Thank you for asking. He’s been somewhat elusive lately, but is no doubt striding about happily somewhere looking for hens to impress. There was a sighting on Beattie’s Book blog in June, where Elizabeth Morton gave the book a very nice review which starts:

“Grab your knapsack. Pack for all conditions. Janis Freegard wants to be your travel companion, and she has a cross-country junket in mind. ‘The Glass Rooster’ takes you through forests and oceans, deserts and space, all the while chaperoned by the eponymous bird who ‘was nothing if not well-travelled’. An unlikely tour guide, perhaps, but he will strut and call and pose for photographs like the best of them.”

Novelist and poet Helen Lowe was also kind enough to feature a Glass Rooster poem as one of her Tuesday poems, which you can read here.

If you’re interested in roosters (mostly glass), you might want to have a look at my Glass Rooster Pinterest page,  There is also a Glass Rooster cannery in Ohio which I may have to visit one day.



Year of falling small

And what about The Year of Falling?

A little busier, actually. The lovely Helen Lowe let my three narrators – Selina, Smith and Quilla – take over her blog for an interview recently.

There have also been some lovely reviews. Emma Bryson on Beattie’s Book Blog, said:

“Quirky, funny and inspiringly touching, Freegard has a knack for writing scenes which are painfully human. I watched as Selina’s life start to drift away from her, and screamed in frustration as she ‘reasoned’ her way into further trouble. And I became a silent observer (albeit slightly tearful) as the stoic Smith dealt with the heart-breaking complexities of losing a friend, raising a child, and caring for a sister.”

Felicity Murray on the Booksellers blog said:

“This is a story of searching for one’s self, trying to identify and then hold onto the important things, and finding a place to call home whether it be a physical place, or simply in your own head and heart. There is hope, forgiveness, joy and love. It is a wonderful story, I very much enjoyed reading it. I really hope this book gets widely read and promoted, because it certainly deserves to.

And Catherine Roberston said in the NZ Listener: “…the pace and assuredness quickly increase, building layers of tension and pleasingly ambiguous characterisations that hold interest to the end.”

I’ve also had some very nice emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook messages from people saying they’re enjoying the novel or were up all night reading it, or they really like one of the characters, which is exactly what any writer loves to hear when wondering whether anyone will ever read the book you spent years fretting over.


Where can I buy them?

Indie bookstores like Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), University bookshops, Page and Blackmore (Nelson), Almo’s Books in Carterton and some Paper Pluses (like the one in Coastlands on the Kapiti Coast). They’re also available directly from AUP and Makaro Press and online retailers like fishpond.

I was chuffed to see both books squeaked into the Indie Top 20 list for 20 June 2015, which means I am on a list with Patricia Grace, Kate Atkinson, Anne Enright, Atul Gawande, Helen MacDonald and other great writers.

Many thanks to everyone who’s bought, read or plans to read the books, who’s requested them from their local library, reviewed them, rated them on Goodreads or told me they enjoyed them. Makes it all worthwhile.

Janis Freegard poster Aug 2015 (2)

Looking forward to reading some Glass Rooster poems and extracts from The Year of Falling in Carterton on Sunday 2nd August 2015. It starts at 3pm at the Carterton Events Centre. I believe there’s also an open mic, so I’ll get to sit back and enjoy other people’s poetry too.

So, yesterday I was interviewed (live – eek!) by the lovely Lynn Freeman on National Radio about The Year of Falling and The Glass Rooster and here is a podcast link in case you’d like to listen to it.

Standing Room only podcast

20150616 075 Janis Freegard Book Launch_L


Well, the books are out there and have already been spotted in Unity Books (both the Auckland and Wellington branches), as well as the Auckland University bookshop and Rona Gallery in Eastbourne.

It would be lovely to see you at the launch:
The Year of Falling (Mākaro Press) and
The Glass Rooster (AUP)

by Janis Freegard.

5:30- 7 pm, Tuesday 16 June 2015
Meow Cafe
9 Edward Street, Te Aro.
Bar tab for first drinks.



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