Mary Macpherson

The photographs of Mary Macpherson – with a dash of poetry

Wellington poet published in US

with 2 comments

Reckless, passionate and a bit feral are some of the ways to describe the amazing Alice Spider. She’s the creation of the fine Wellington poet Janis Freegard who first started writing about her at age 18. Now Alice has made her longest appearance yet in a 37 poem chapbook, The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider published by the US-based Anomalous Press.

The connection between a New Zealand poet and a US publisher was made via the international Tuesday poems1 network on the spider web of the Net.  To find out more, I interviewed Janis.

Mary: you first started writing about Alice Spider when you were 18. Now, several decades later, she’s appeared in The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider. Can you talk about how the Alice writing evolved over the years and have you had to work at continuing the energy of your 18 year-old writer self?

Janis: Alice has always arrived in fits and starts.  I’d write a piece or a few pieces on whatever scraps of paper came to hand, whenever the mood took me.   It has rarely been planned writing and I think that has helped with keeping up a level of capricious Alice energy.  Despite her many contradictions, I’ve always had a strong sense of who she is.  Also, whenever selections of her continuous adventures have been published, they’ve been a mix of pieces I wrote at different times, so the early energy stays threaded through.  I’ve done some fairly light editing of the pieces I wrote in my teens and twenties, but have tried not to lose the essence.  I’ve also reflected some of the earlier writing in subsequent pieces, occasionally reusing a phrase or a character.

The themes and subject matter have changed over the years.  There has always been a mix of realism and surrealism, humour and menace.  The earlier pieces contain more knives, blood and cigarettes; the later pieces tend to be a bit lighter, with zebras and hot air balloons.

Mary: Alice is a fairly spunky chick – early on she banishes her dull companion Melanie May and races through the world in a montage of spiky adventurous personalities. I began to wonder if she was a symbol for the force of creativity or imagination or did you conceive of her more as a person?

Janis: Interesting! I’ve never really thought of her as a symbol before; I’ve always thought of her as a person.  In some respects she’s a kind of alter ego, a more reckless version of myself. I do let her borrow a few of my own experiences from time to time. Perhaps she’s also a spirit of wildness and freedom.  I know some people think of her as a spider, but to me, she’s human (well, as human as any fictitious character).  She does a fair bit of spinning and weaving though, which seems appropriate.

Mary: talking of her life as a character, did you shape the narrative make her grow-up a little during the series and have different life experiences (e.g. zapping through parenthood in a mere poem)? Or does Alice never have to change?

Janis: I didn’t consciously and deliberately think about how Alice might mature, but by writing about her over such a long period of time, I think it’s inevitable she would have a wide range of experiences.  I suspect Alice lives in the moment.  Maybe all her adventures are lived simultaneously.

Mary: you’ve said you’ve always had a strong sense of who Alice is. Where did this sense come from and how would you describe Alice?

Janis: hmm, I’m not entirely sure where the sense of Alice came from.  She just showed up one day and stayed.  A bit like an imaginary friend, perhaps.  I’d describe her as reckless, restless, passionate and a bit feral.

Mary: the Alice chapbook happened in quite a miraculous and Alice-like way through the agency of the Tuesday poems on the Net. Can you tell us exactly how a Kiwi girl like Alice leapt across the ocean into the arms of the US based Anomalous Press?

Janis: it was all very serendipitous!  Thanks to Mary McCallum’s Tuesday Poem site, I was paired with wonderful US poet Melissa Green for a 2010 end-of-year “Secret Santa” poem swap – I posted one of Melissa’s poems on my blog and she very kindly hosted Alice Spider.  Cat Parnell spotted Alice there and asked if I’d like to contribute to a new online journal she was involved with: Anomalous.  Alice duly appeared in an edition of Anomalous, after which Cat and editor Erica Mena contacted me to say they were interested in publishing an Alice Spider chapbook.  The chapbook includes some of the poems that originally appeared in the Anomalous journal as well as others that have been published in AUP New Poets 3, JAAM and Turbine.  There are also some previously unpublished segments.  It feels very much as though Alice has gone off travelling without me.  It’s been a really exciting process and a great example of how the worldwide web (a very appropriate vehicle for someone called Alice Spider) can connect people across the planet and make things happen.


Watch Janis reading a selection of Alice Spider poems.


Buy the book


Janis Freegard is the author of the poetry collection Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press, 2011) and co-author of AUP New Poets 3 (2008). She was born in South Shields, England, and lived in South Africa and Australia before her family settled in New Zealand when she was twelve. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand with an historian, a cat and various spiders. 


From – The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider

Alice Weaves
Alice the Weaving Webster has spun herself a labyrinthine
web. Alice is the Spider, waiting in her lair, spinning from
her body the threads that create her life. Spinning around in
the dance of her own conception. Alice is exactly where she
should be, doing exactly what she ought. Alice is grinning.


The Tuesday Poem site ( is a communal blog where thirty different poets from around the world (New Zealand, the US, the UK, Australia, Italy and Lesotho) take turns at being guest editor.  Contributors also post a poem on their own blogs most Tuesdays, with links to the site.

Written by Mary Macpherson

29/03/2013 at 11:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wonderful interview! Great to read more about Alice’s adventures, across oceans and worlds…

    Michelle Elvy

    31/03/2013 at 10:54 am

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