Friday, November 2, 2012

I Wish I'd Written This

Get Married

By Olga Novak (1928 - 2005)

(Dedicated to the Born Losers in the Marriage Stakes)

When I was a young maiden,
I was too plain, too clever and too smart.
With boys worthy and eligible —
I just couldn't get a start.

My mother, being more experienced,
more mature and more wise,
To remedy my single status —
Dished up some good advice.

You are not likely to get Prince Charming.
But spinsterhood — it's oh, so dull.
Why then, not settle for some no hoper?
Just to fill in your female destiny's lull.

        Get married, get married,
        Get married without delay.
        A woman on her own!
        What will the neighbours say?

I got married. To a louse and a weakling,
And life was a hopeless sham.
Till — one miserable, grey morning
A divorcee I became.

There are still some crusty, old boozers!
My mother got a grapevine.
So, why won't I get out and circulate?
And persuade one of them to be mine.

        Get married, get married,
        Get married without delay.
        A woman on her own!
        What will the neighbours say?

To such a fellow, heavy drinker,
I got married again.
He got killed: in a car accident.
Now a widow I shall remain.

But my mother keeps on nagging:
You're capable, you can earn and save;
Maybe there is still somewhere for you some old man,
With one foot in his grave?

        Get married, get married,
        Get married without delay.
        A woman on her own!
        What will the neighbours say?

(This one is meant for reciting aloud.)

Polish-born Olga Novak, who migrated to Australia in 1952 (after living in Russia, and briefly in Germany) was poet, novelist and film-maker — but best-known as a dynamic performance-poet. This piece, declaimed in her distinctive accent, was undoubtedly the most popular poem in Melbourne in its heyday. Audiences used to chime in gleefully with the chorus.

It was published in her book of poems, The Witch's Coven, in 1978. Despite the title poem which accurately depicts witches 'calling the quarters', Olga was an atheist. She used the term as a metaphor for self-determining women — in full consciousness of its use by some men as a term of opprobrium for self-determining women.

Unfortunately her books are out of print, and one novel was never published. She wanted me to be her literary executor. Although there was no formal arrangement, Olga's daughter (and heir) approved the plan. My own commitments meant that I have only just created a blog in her name, which starts by showcasing her poetry from The Witch's Coven. My intention is to add some of her prose at a later date.

Olga was not the most literary of writers — although she was well-read — and English was her second language. Nevertheless her work has verve and passion. After a youth of struggle, she had strong opinions and wrote of them fearlessly.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, I can't read it without hearing her voice! But it doesn't seem to be working on the page for those who haven't had that experience —judging by the lack of other comments so far. On facebook it's the Aussies who are 'getting' it, probably those who caught her in performance too.

    2. (Or it may be that many American readers are far too busy with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy!)

  2. A fantastic poem and fascinating biography! Thank you for sharing -- and best wishes on your new site -- great project.


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