04 July 2011

Tuesday Poem: A Life Blighted By Pythons, by Janis Freegard


waiting at the bus-stop
all I can think about
is how my hovercraft is full of eels

but it’s not, of course it’s not
my hovercraft is practically empty
my eels are few

in fact they’re not eels at all
but a netload of whitebait
and it isn’t even a hovercraft

I've never owned a hovercraft in my life
I wouldn’t know what to do with one
it’s not even a dinghy

it’s a reusable eco-friendly shopping bag
and they’re definitely not eels
and not even whitebait

the truth is, I've never been whitebaiting
they're just vegetables
and I only have one thing to say:

your eels
my hovercraft
now, baby, now

Credit note: "A Life Blighted By Pythons" is republished by permission of the author and of Auckland University Press from Janis Freegard's first solo collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus.

Tim says: I am reading Janis's marvellously entertaining collection at the moment, and I love this poem so much not only because of its intrinsic qualities, but also because of the shared cultural heritage it so vividly evokes. You can catch more of Janis's wit and wisdom in my interview with her, which I'll be posting later this week.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.


Isabel Doyle said...

I enjoyed the internal logic and fun of this poem very much. Eels indeed!

Meliors Simms said...

I'm also reading Kingdom Animalia at the moment, and loving Janis' poems and sense of humour as well as insight. Serendipitously the cover art is by Mary McIntyre who I saw speak last week at an exhibition of her work in Morrinsville.

Mary Cresswell said...

I think "my eels are few" is an inordinately wry and winsome comment on the human condition, especially in these days of wanton over-communication. If there is to be another literary plaque on the Wellington waterfront, this should be it. Go Janis! And of course, go eels!

AJ Ponder said...

A surprising poem - I got to the last stanza and realised it wasn't your voice at all. A very nice pick, I must read more of Janis' work.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Isabel, Meliors, Mary and AJ.

Meliors, I've only dipped into the collection so far, but I am very much looking forward to sitting down and giving it my full attention. The dryness of Janis' humour really appeals to me - I think it's a Northern (English) thing, and Janis' Northern credentials are far stronger than mine - I'm secretly a Mindlander who puts on a metaphorical cloth cap from time to time.

Mary, a Janis plaque would be an excellent idea!

AJ, I think that Janis' poetry would appeal to you very much. (No warranty express or implied, of course.)

Janis said...

Thank you - you're all most kind! I've just found a website where "My hovercraft is full of eels" is translated into many languages, including Klingon and Esperanto. In Maori (this being Maori Language Week) it's "Kī tōnu taku waka topaki i te tuna" http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/hovercraft.htm
Tim, I like it that you're a secret "Mindlander".

Helen Rickerby said...

This poem has me at the title. This is one of the kind of surreal ones that were my favourites in Kingdom Animalia. I also have never owned a hovercraft.

Helen Lowe said...

Surreal! I also loved Janis's magic realism story, "The Magician" in "Tales for Canterbury."

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Janis, Helen R, and Helen L.

Janis, my typo proves that I do, indeed, live the life of the mind...

Helen R, I too have never owned a hovercraft, but when I were lad oop North - er, in Mataura - hovercraft were regarding as the "coming thing" in transport - they can go by land! they can go by sea! - and I went through a period of fascination with them. Christopher Cockerill was my particular her for a while ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Cockerell.

Helen L, yours and Janis' are among the many Tales for Canterbury I am looking forward to reading. I've got a couple of books for review to finish first, though.