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The Slattern

She hasn’t driven her vacuum cleaner around the rooms;
the dust sits thick.
Piled up dishes will be taken care of – soon.

Hillocks of washing swell and lie in ambush;
windows are opaque with grime;
the fridge’s fruiting moulds are eager to be let loose.

Newspaper castles yellow in the sunny afternoons;
the bottle stack threatens;
a compost bucket barely contains its ooze.
Blue emerges from an ancient plastic tube
atop a slimy sink.
The slattern sings. Loudly and out of tune.
Blue vacuum cleaner

Image via Wikipedia

This is one of mine, originally published in Blackmail Press – the 36 inch bust issue.
You can access the other Tuesday poems by clicking on the quill to the left.

from Iceland’s Poetic Eddas

19. An ash I know, | Yggdrasil its name,
With water white | is the great tree wet;
Thence come the dews | that fall in the dales,
Green by Urth’s well | does it ever grow.

20. Thence come the maidens | mighty in wisdom,
Three from the dwelling | down ‘neath the tree;
Urth is one named, | Verthandi the next,–
On the wood they scored,– | and Skuld the third.
Laws they made there, and life allotted
To the sons of men, and set their fates.

The Norns by H. L. M

Signed “H. L. M.” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Poetic Eddas were the oral literature of Iceland, finally written down from 1000 to 1300 C.E.  The translation above is by Henry Adams Bellows.  

This particular extract, about the three Norns, is from The Voluspa, or the Wise Woman’s Prophecy.  The Norns determine our fates.  Urth is the guardian of a sacred well at the base of Yggdrasil, the World Tree.  Each day, the Norns sprinkle water from Urth’s Well over the roots of the tree.  The tree draws up the water and the water falls  from the tree as dew, re-entering Urth’s well to repeat the cycle.

 Full text of the Eddas can be found here

This is something I posted in 2008, but as yesterday was the anniverary of Neil’s death, I thought I would re-post today.  Neil died on 18 November 1982. I wrote this a couple of years later.

Neil was twenty when I met him, twenty-two when he died. Sometimes his hair was blond, sometimes green; often he had no hair at all. He had shaved eyebrows & wore black eye-liner under his eyes. Safety-pins adorned his ears. Whenever I saw him, he was smiling.

Neil wore black trousers & torn shirts. He made his own badges: ‘Drug-takers against the bomb’. Only once did I see him wearing shoes. He often talked about killing himself, but the date kept changing so we didn’t take him too seriously. He planned to take something with him when he went, like the Auckland Central Police Station. He was wanted on charges of possession, shoplifting, protesting against the Springbok Tour. He wrote graffiti.

For a while, he travelled with others in an old bus. I’d see him sometimes at parties or pubs. I was in Barnacle Bill’s with a couple of friends once, looking for a guy who sold pills. When they asked Neil if he’d seen him, he pulled the guy’s suicide note out of his pocket. We didn’t stay long after that.

The second-to-last time I saw Neil, he’d come up from Stratford, where he’d been staying. He’d changed his name to Null. He wasn’t working or getting the dole & owned nothing but the clothes he was wearing. His black dog, Umbrella, was with him, hungry but uncomplaining. Neil was living off the cold pies & doughnuts he took from factory canteens at night. He didn’t spend too long in any one town.

The night I saw him, I was at a restaurant in Auckland with a group of friends – a farewell dinner for some-one leaving town. One of the group disappeared for a while & I went out to check he wasn’t throwing up in the gutter. I found him in a dark doorway, talking to Neil. The three of us went back into the restaurant & some-one ordered Neil some garlic bread. (We’d finished our meals; he hadn’t eaten.)

I saw him a few days later, in the quad at ’Varsity with Umbrella. We talked for a while. I never saw Neil again. When I heard on the news some months later that a punk anarchist had blown himself to pieces at the Wanganui Computer Centre, I wondered.

The name was released the next day: twenty-two year-old Neil Roberts from Stratford. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was still a shock. I listened to the details: his remains were scattered over 65 metres; an intact finger was found. A recent tattoo said: “This punk won’t see twenty-three. No future.” He left a graffito nearby: “We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity. Anarchy Peace Thinking.” Days later, I read the newspapers in the local library. They described a polite, friendly person dressed in punk clothes, originally from Auckland, where his dog had now been sent. I had to face it. Neil was dead. Long live anarchy.

© Janis Freegard

A World made by Atomes

by Margaret Cavendish, 1653

SMall Atomes of themselves a World may make,
As being subtle, and of every shape:
And as they dance about, fit places finde,
Such Formes as best agree, make every kinde.
For when we build a house of Bricke, and Stone,
We lay them even, every one by one:
And when we finde a gap that’s big, or small,
We seeke out Stones, to fit that place withall.
For when not fit, too big, or little be,
They fall away, and cannot stay we see.
So Atomes, as they dance, finde places fit,
They there remaine, lye close, and fast will sticke.
Those that unfit, the rest that rove about,
Do never leave, untill they thrust them out.
Thus by their severall Motions, and their Formes,
As severall work-men serve each others turnes.
And thus, by chance, may a New World create:
Or else predestined to worke my Fate.

Margaret Cavendish


Today, I came across a fascinating bunch of “atomic poems” by Margaret Cavendish (born Margaret Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle.   Born in 1623, she went on to write many books, poems and plays, including works of science fiction and the series of poems about atoms.  The poems mightn’t be that great individually, but it’s the fact that she wrote them at all, particularly in the seventeenth century, that I find so interesting. 

Her theories about atoms include atoms coming in four types: “Square flat Atomes” that make up earth, “Round Atomes” that make up water, “Long streight Atomes” that make up air and “Sharp Atomes” that make up fire.

Apparently she was the first woman invited to attend the Royal Society (three hundred years before the second) and was treated to demonstrations of the weighing of air, the dissolution of mutton in sulphuric acid, magnetic power, Robert Boyle’s theory of colors, and Robert Hooke’s microscope.

More about her here and here

Spring sessions at the Watusi, 6 Edwards Street, Central Wellington (off Victoria St.)

Thursday 18th November  8:30pm start, gold coin entry

I will be reading, along with Trev Hayes & Mike Tights.  There will also be an open mic (so bring your poems/songs) & live music from Reuben Wilson, Jordan Stewart & William Daymond.

Seeing as it’s Diwali at the moment (or the Festival of Lights), I thought I’d post a poem by an Indian poet. 
A Love Song from the North
by Sarojini Naidu (1879 – 1949)


Tell me no more of thy love, papeeha,
Wouldst thou recall to my heart, papeeha,
Dreams of delight that are gone,
When swift to my side came the feet of my lover
With stars of the dusk and the dawn?
I see the soft wings of the clouds on the river,
And jewelled with raindrops the mango-leaves quiver,
And tender boughs flower on the plain…..
But what is their beauty to me, papeeha,
Beauty of blossom and shower, papeeha,
That brings not my lover again?
Tell me no more of thy love, papeeha,
Wouldst thou revive in my heart, papeeha
Grief for the joy that is gone?
I hear the bright peacock in glimmering woodlands
Cry to its mate in the dawn;
I hear the black koel’s slow, tremulous wooing,
And sweet in the gardens the calling and cooing
Of passionate bulbul and dove….
But what is their music to me, papeeha
Songs of their laughter and love, papeeha,
To me, forsaken of love?


Sarojini Naidu

I believe a papeeha is a type of bird.
Sarojini Naidu, known as the Nightingale of India, was born on 13 February 1879 in Hyderabad.  She was a famous Indian poet, a major freedom fighter,  the first Indian woman to be appointed president of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to be appointed Governor of an Indian state (Uttar Pradesh).   She was an active participant in the Indian Independence movement, joining Gandhi in the Salt March to Dandi.
More about her here.
Mahatma Gandhi & Sarojini Naidu

The results of the Whitireia Café Poetry compeititon have been announced – congratulations to winner Mercedes Webb-Pullman.  More about this here  To celebrate, there will be a series of readings in cafés:

Cafe Kaizen @ Pataka Museum, Porirua (cnr Parumoana and Norrie St)
Winners Presentation Night, Wednesday 3rd November, 6pm
Dinner (if you’ve booked) from 6pm, with poems from the winners throughout the night. Or come at 7.30pm for a selection of poems, including the major prize winners.

Lembas Café, Raumati South (34 Poplar Ave,  in Raumati  Sth village shops)
Thursday 4th November @ 6pm. Poetry reading starts @ 6.30pm.

Cafe Villa, Ngaio (61 Ottawa Road) Friday 5th November @ 1pm.

The Ballroom Café, Newtown  (9 Riddiford St) Sunday 7th November 4-6pm.

The Marrakech Café, Evans Bay (305 Evans Bay Rd) Tuesday 9th November.  Moroccan dinner @ 6pm, Poetry @ 7pm.

The Fig Tree Café and Delicatessen, Upper Hutt (386 Fergusson Dr)
Wednesday 17th November 4–5pm.

Seatoun Café and Bar, Seatoun (24 Dundas St) Eat Your Words Grand Finale
Saturday 20th November @ 3pm for an early summer barbecue (if it’s fine); exhibition of Eat Your Words poems on the wall

Further details about bookings and meal specials can be found at the Whitireia link above.  I am planning to go along to Café Kaizen, Café Villa, The Marrakech Café and the Ballroom Café, to read a café poem or two.

November is a great month for poetry in Wellington.  The NZ Poetry Society anthology launch is happening on 6 November at 4:30pm at Turnbull House, Baobab Café in Newtown (152 Riddiford St has an open mic event Sunday 7 November, 4-7pm Wellington, and there are many more events which you can read about here or here

On Thursday 18th November, I will be one of the guest poets at the Watusi Spring Sessions, along with Trev Hayes and Mike Tights.  I’ll post more details once they are confirmed, but it’s likely to start at 8pm-ish and there will an open mic and bands.



Janis on Twitter

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November 2010

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