As a special seasonal treat we’ve joined with author and music critic Simon Sweetman to curate and present to you a festive panoply of poets reading their works for Wellingtonians — one a day until Christmas.
Next up is the wonderful Janis Freegard, reading a poem from her recently published collection Reading the signs. Have a listen below, and enjoy!
Reading the signs / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in Janis Freegard’s new collection take their starting point from the poet’s daily ritual of reading the tea leaves while writing in the Ema Saiko room in the Wairarapa. This leads to unexpected discoveries about the world around her, from spider visitors to the writing room and a papyrus-fine gecko skin in the nearby wildlife sanctuary, to news of the ancient bdelloid rotifers that defy natural disasters and the recently extinct amphibians that did not. Then a gender- and species-fluid interpreter turns up to help the poet work her way through the daily revelations in her tea cup … Reading the Signs is a series of linked poems that are thoughtful and humorous, provocative and tender, and come together as a quiet epic about a planet that is fast running out of puff.” (Back cover)
“Janis Freegard is a New Zealand writer of fiction and poetry. She was born in South Shields, England, and spent part of her childhood in South Africa and Australia before her family settled in New Zealand when she was 12. Her latest publication is a poetry collection, Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press, 2020). Her novel, The Year of Falling, was published by Makaro Press in 2015.”
Excerpted from Janis’s website
More from Janis
“The poems in this first full collection from New Zealand’s Janis Freegard are categorized by Linnaean taxonomy: the six sections Mammalia, Aves, Amphibia, Pisces, Insecta, and Vermes are interspersed with a seven-part poem on the topic of Carolus Linneaus himself. Here Freegard catalogs the various fantastic and artistic, anthropomorphic and objective, rational and self-serving ways that humans draw on the animal world: as symbol and allegory, food and friend, ravening enemy, and sacred icon. From surreal prose poems to gorgeous lists–featuring a stuffed Maori dog, murderous magpies, and cake-shop cockroaches–Freegard’s verse reflects the diversity of the animal kingdom and its light-hearted fancifulness belies a strong commitment to conservation.” (Catalogue)
The glass rooster / Freegard, Janis
“The poems in The Glass Rooster explore the spaces inhabited by humans and other creatures–from natural ecosystems to cities and even to outer space. Our guide on this journey is a glass rooster–observer of stars and lover of hens–who first popped up in Janis Freegard’s poetry years ago and wanders unchecked through the book. Each of the eight sections (or “echo-systems”) in the book–the Damp Places, Forest, Cityscape, the Alpine Zone, Space, Home & Garden, Underground, and In the Desert–is introduced by a triolet: a French poetic form with repeated lines. Other poems are arranged in pairs, each echoing something about the other, whether desert plants, the presence of balloons, or the dangers of working in a mine. The result is a tremendous, riotous exploration of an interconnected world.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
The year of falling / Freegard, Janis
“When the porcelain dolls start turning up on Selina’s doorstep, she knows it’s a bad sign. Shortly afterwards she embarks on an ill-judged affair with a celebrity TV chef. Both events, and the lies an untold truths at their heart, precipitate a spectacular fall from grace for high-flying graphic artist, Selina.” (Catalogue)
Still to come…
Still to come are readings from Mary McCallum, Richard Langston, Sam Duckor-Jones, Rachel McAlpine, Simon Sweetman, Oscar Sweetman, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Michael Fitzsimons, and Ruby Solly.
We’ll be posting up the latest in the series of poems every day until Christmas on the Library homepage and on our blog here, so keep an eye out!
We’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to Simon Sweetman for curating these daily poems, and to the lovely people at Book Haven for allowing us to record in their bookshop. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!
“Simon’s been writing poems since he was first listening to bands on his Walkman, but then he started sharing them via social media and open mic nights. Marking a pivot from the razor-sharp and sometimes controversial music writing he is best known for, Simon’s collection is as wide-ranging as his career to date. A natural storyteller whose poetry is filled with characters both famous and ordinary, this eagerly awaited collection is unpredictable, anarchic, playful and surprisingly heartfelt.” (Adapted from Catalogue)