For as long as I can remember, I have been in thrall to words. As a way to touch and be touched. By memory, sense and feeling. By others. To give voice to the inaudible, the inarticulate, the hidden.
To feel my way towards understanding...
…of the sweetness. tenderness, disillusionment and bitterness of growing up and coming of age amidst the tumult and aching beauty of South Africa
…of the legacy of wanderings and displacements of my parents, and their parents, and their parents’ parents' parents, exiles and refugees from a hostile European anti-Semitism
…of my own self-imposed exile, drifting through continents and countries—from South Africa to England, through Europe and overland from Cairo back to Johannesburg and from there to Canada, to Vancouver and now here, Gabriola Island, grateful to live and write on the traditional lands of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
My first book of poems, Refugee Song, published by Signature Editions in 2014 (http://www.signature-editions.com/index.php/books/single_title/refugee_song) is a gathering up and weaving together of these many, disparate threads, a multivocal melange, a cosmopolitan hybrid.
My first foray into professional writing was as a barely-out-of-school, apprentice reporter on a small-town weekly newspaper outside Johannesburg. My youthful romance with journalism didn’t survive the year.
The ensuing footloose years took me through jobs as a salesperson in a children’s bookstore, a floor sweeper in a lock-and-key factory, a street-theatre performer, the-guy-who-puts-the-bend-in-the-elbows-of -downspouts, photographer at a community neighbourhood house, handicap bus driver, shift worker at a psychiatric half-way house, tree-planter, baker. The diversity, challenges and richness of all these life experiences provided the ground for my subsequent work as a counselling therapist.
And from all of this emerged also a deep understanding of how self is forged from place and displacement, an understanding at the root of my counselling psychology master's degree thesis: Out of context: identity rupture and repair in self-exiled white South Africans.
Questions of self and otherness, of longing and belonging, lie at the heart of my writing. In Skin, my manuscript for a novel, a traumatic event forces a young man in a turbulent South Africa to confront and question everything he believed to be good and true about himself and those he loved and trusted, and to ask himself to what extremes he should—and would—go to prove himself and to right his country's wrongs.
Words weave their way through my life in other ways. I serve on the board of Poetry Gabriola Society promoting literary and other arts on the beautiful island I’m fortunate to call home. And I am part of South Africa from Afar, a group of authors & commentators based in and around Vancouver writing about South Africa in different genres, providing literary, historical, socio-political, and personal lenses through which to view the country and its peoples before, during and after the apartheid era.
I acknowledge with gratitude that I live and write on the traditional, unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation of the Coast Salish People.