Olga Novak was born in north-eastern Poland, lived for six years in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and, for a shorter period, in Germany. She attended Council of Adult Education (CAE) courses in writing, including play and scriptwriting. In Australia she worked in the garment industry's factories, as a waitress and also a bookkeeper. She was a member of the Society of Women Writers, the Victorian Association of Multicultural Writers, and of the Migrant Women's Society, as well as an active member of the Poets Union of Australia, Melbourne Branch (now Melbourne Poets Union).

She was best known as a dynamic performance poet and her book of poems, The Witch's Coven, was published in 1978 by her friend Thalia. Her novel, Unmarried Mother By Choice, was published by in 1991. She had another novel almost ready for publication when she died in 2005 at the age of 71. An ardent feminist, she spoke particularly for women and migrants.

As her trusted friend and sometime editor (though not of the poems) I have her family's permission to disseminate her work here. The hard copies of her books are now out of print.

— Rosemary Nissen-Wade


This is the text of Olga's book, The Witch's Coven (Melbourne, thalia, 1978)

The Witches' Coven
From the East
From the West
From the South
From the North
From the Fire and from the Water
From the Earth and from the Sky
Converge you witches to a Witches' Coven
And fly your broomsticks high!

Get Married
(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?

Le Jour de la Bastille
Dedicated to the French Revolution, to the Day of the Bastille and to a mob of women, who took to the streets of Paris.

Today history is made.
Women are on the march.
We got no blueprint for the future.
Yet we are ready to face-up hostilities and hardships.
But today — the Bastille shall tumble down and fall.
And once fallen  it shall never ever rise again!

        So, don't give up the trappings of reason
        When high on visions and zeal
        We are out to storm a prison.
        Vive le jour de la Bastille!

The Sad Ballad of a First-Born Son
For my young parents —
I was their first-born son.
Greeted with rapture and boundless joy.
A year passed. My mother is nursing
A new baby. And I — became
A troublesome toddler, a naughty little boy.

        It's the new, eighth baby, crying,
        Getting love and attention.
        For me — parental love turned sour and cold.
        Sweep floors, wash dishes,
        Get out dustbins, run messages
        Your first-born son: Only ten years old!

Please, recall for a moment
My joyous arrival
So bonny a baby, so tender and sweet!
Why then, dear parents,
Have I failed to please you?
As the quest for new babies you repeat and repeat.

A Lullaby for the Future
Lullaby, my baby,
You're mamma's pride and joy.
I wish you were girl though,
When you only are — a boy.

                    Outside — there is social upheaval;
                    Things are changing — fast.
                    The sisterhood of women
                    Is overtaking — at last!

No more holy male child,
Adoring three men wise,
The cult of Mother and Daughter
Is steady on the rise.

                    Praise no more for medals,
                    Uniforms, ammunition ...
                    Frontiers armies and states
                    Undergoing total abolition

Lullaby, my baby,
You're mamma's pride and joy.
I wish you were a girl though,
When you only are — a boy.

The Polluted Poet
The valley below —  a wasteland!
The air — with smog is foul;
And there you stand, you poet
A desolate, lost soul.

        To sing about love in the moonlight?
        Young passion on a mountain's ridge?
        Love, passion — just a litany of possession;
        It's the house, the car, the fridge.

To worship the almighty Theos?
Protector of the wronged, the ill,
There is no answer to prayers
And — there never will!

        When you see greed and evil
        Don't bow your head in shame
        Get out of your depths, you poet
        To inspire and inflame!

The Idealist
Some are born,
Badly crippled with concern
For humanity.
With such a deformity
One lives, one dies.
Cannot eradicate it — or change it,
May as well try and change
The colour of your eyes.

                    In a selfish, hedonistic world
                    Around you
                    One seeks out hurt, injustice
                    And spit.
                    From the everpresent pain
                    Of compassion —
                    There is no cure, or holiday

At last! The ice of intolerance
Is breaking.
People are learning
Even oddities to face.
So, shall you meet
The emotional cripples of ideals
Please, don't throw stones at them
In the market place.

Ode to My Sisters, the Foreign Sheilas
Make a break in the all
Of a dreary, hug factory
And see them: bent over machines,
Slaving on the assembly-line
My toiling sisters!
The foreign sheilas
Exploited and prodded
By leeches of slime.

Open the door
In a stinking hotel kitchen,
In a commercial laundry,
In  steaming press:
And there you'll find them
Among the grime
And among the food scrapings:
Just making ends meet
In a capitalistic mess.

                  With the last effort
                  Of my sagging spirit —
                  Fleeing the sweatshops
                  With my tired, aching feet
                  Flaunting the colours
                  Of social justice,
                  Pleading and arguing
                  In the city's streets.

Why should I, slave endless, long hours?
Bending my back in meek servitude!
Till — the means of production shall be totally ours,
Till — a radical change in attitudes.

Token of Love
Did life's troubles
Cause you concern?
Have you felt lonely
Rejected and blue?
Now, there is someone
To whom you could turn
To soothe your worries
And care about you

        Hazy and waiting
        For the break of dawn,
        Eager and trying
        Till the day is done.
        Play some music,
        Sing a song of your own,
        Get high with laughter,
        With dreams and with fun.

Who could tell our fate, our destiny?
Read the pattern of the stars above?
Let's welcome each other's company
And take a chance on LOVE.



There lived a smug housewife in Aussie Land
Her husband — she adored and pampered no end.
She never read a good book
Just cleaned, washed and cooked
Till her man shot through — with a girlfriend.

Equal first prize, limerick competition by the Society of Women Writers, Melbourne 1975.


She came from Italy, Maria is her name
By a man seduced and abandoned; oh, what a shame!
But don't cry, dear Maria, for things past and of yore
In Melbourne town there are men by the score
Have fun — if you know the lurks of the game

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