A brilliant review of Writing the Self in the Cape Times


BOOKS – Cape Times, Friday, November 7, 2008


WOW! That was the first thought that came to mind after reading this gem, Writing the Self – An Anthology of new writing (Women’s Writing Workshops).

Not that I want to be accused of plagiarising the Cape Times/Woman of Worth (WOW) award, but this anthology is truly a wonderful tribute to these women writers of worth.

Dedicated to the late Margaret Legum, whose poetry is included. Editors Anne Schuster, Annemarie Hendrikz and Maire Fisher decided earlier this year that the exceptional writing that flowed from Schuster’s monthly writing workshops in Cape Town should be complied and shared with a wider audience.

At the recent launch at the Centre for the Book, the spirit of generosity that binds these women together was palpable as the festivities continued into the night with husbands and male partners joining the women in giving themselves a hearty pat on the back for this joint achievement.

Sarah-Anne Raynham, who did the design and layout, Clare Gibbon, who assisted with editing and Ruth Carneson, whose artwork appears on the cover, are all members of the ” monthlies”.

But back to the writing.

Short stories, short short stories and sublime poetry, while often reflecting the writers’ African roots, all seem to elevate the essence of being a woman onto a universal plane.

An unusual feature is that the sections are divided not by subject matter, but according to the seven chakras that was the theme of recent workshops. The women worked with colour, the senses and the elements (earth, fire, water and air) which Schuster believes helped “connect the writers with the deep energy source we all have inside us”.

For example, the works chosen to reflect the second chakra, with its water element, range from Legum’s poem ‘Beloved’ to Nella Freund’s ‘My Wild and Ecstatic Woman’ interspersed with an erotic prose piece on ‘Purple Plums’ by Anne Woodborne.

As I read – and re-read – this delightful anthology, it is an impossible task to single out any particular writer that is better than the next.

But, for me, Benita Loff’s poem ‘Seeing Fairies’ dedicated to her autistic son, Luca, and Bridgette Whyte’s reminiscences of the effect of the Group Areas Act in ‘A different time’, were particularly moving.

But then there is Cathy Stagg’s ‘A woman from another time’ and Helen Douglas’s ‘Later, she’ll ride her bike forever’ and ‘Miss Conradie and the angels’ by Gillian Munn and Mary Monaghan’s ‘Poem of Desire’ – just too many to mention.

So dip in, savour this book over and over again and share it with others.

A marvellous collection of poetry and prose – that is anything but prosaic.

A bonus: Schuster has included a detailed section on how to “free write” and create poetry which she has adapted from her workshops to suit the needs of a novice. Try it – it’s fun!

* Writing the Self is available from Clarke’s bookshop; Kalk Bay Books and via the website http://www.anneschuster.co.za.

– Jean von Witt

By monthliesblog Posted in Uncategorized

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