John Garth Raubenheimer (21/12/1947 / Johannesburg)
Biography of John Garth Raubenheimer
Queen Vic, Johannesburg, breech birth. First of five children, I grew up under apartheid on a poultry farm run by my mother. My father was an inventor. He was BIG John, I was little John. He was a formidable man (See my poems 'Muh And The Moon' and 'Father, Son') My father and mother started off their life together as teachers, she of English, he of Maths and Science. They were rationalist humanists. One day I walked into the local chemist - I was about 15 - and heard one of my aunts gossiping. 'It's a scandal, ' she was saying. 'That Lydia! She's never told her kids they're Jewish. ' (I slid out. A signal moment. I felt protective of our 'Muh' - our name for her when we were little...)
I remember our servants with love, particularly the three women who looked after us, first Sana, ('Sana's Magic: An Early Memory') then Rosie, then Maria Chauke, carrying us on their backs when we were infants. A male servant, Alfred, polished our shoes, another, Daniel, rode one of my brothers and me to school on the farm bike. Johannes, who of 'the boys' - he was a man in his thirties - perhaps I loved most, was 'mother for chickens'. ('Their Old Enemy') These people shared their lives with us, treating us with extreme kindness. I regret that, except for Maria, I don't know their surnames. Our farm was in a fertile valley... Our neighbour, a Portuguese market gardener, ploughed his fields with oxen. Drums beat all weekend, accompanied by singing. I saw police raids, young khaki- or dark blue? - uniformed policemen chasing and beating Africans with their batons. I saw one drag a woman along by her hair - the first time I'd seen long hair on a black person.
One night I watched stars colliding and making odd patterns over the horizon. Maybe these were hallucinations caused by the schizophrenia from which I suffered more and more later in life (I thought God had chosen me for a special destiny, was incarcerated at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital Cape Town, Tara Hospital near Johannesburg, among other places... 'Psychotic Invitation' 'The Beauty And Comedy Of Madness' 'All Your Wishes Will Be Granted')
We had brave friends who fought apartheid and went to prison or were listed as communists. They live in my heart... Except for two years in Europe ('No Shipboard Romance' 'In Vondelpark, Amsterdam 1970') I lived a life under apartheid. ('The Men' 'Singing God's Light') After leaving school early - school was a bit of a disaster - I did compulsory army service. Married. Was present at my son's birth. Did a hundred jobs I was useless at, like selling office machines and newspaper advertising space. ('New Ambulance Man Receives A blessing'...) Divorced. Was a psychiatric outpatient for a long time, years, with a sinecure at Tara ('The Malletjies Of Hillbrow') but when I got real work I kept it. Found my feet literally when I began to walk everywhere in Jo'burg. ('Merciful Muggers' 'Storm Drain')
Read poems with other poets and friends at various Johannesburg venues, sharing platforms with Martin Smit, Gary Cummiskey and Sinclair Beiles among others: eternal thanks to playwright and DJ Martin, and journalist Alexandra Smit-Stachowski, for believing in me and organizing events. And eternal gratitude to you, Fig: Lauren-Joy; along with Martin, Paul and Jony - by accepting me, delusions and all, you all saved my life. Voted ANC and for the Women's Party in our first democratic election in 1994. Married again and joined my English wife, Biffy, in Yorkshire. ('Consummation' 'A Lesson From The Master' 'John Err At Sea') I work here with some people with a learning disability. Biffy died in 2000. I have become a Christian. ('Shine Fortunate Becoming'.) I had my last breakdown in 2001. The simple care of the people round me saved me... as did love from - and for - my growing family.
There are so many others to whom I am just as grateful whose names don't appear in this brief summary of my life.
John Garth Raubenheimer's Works:
THE VOYAGE FROM ME TO YOU: A Life In Poetry, is me reading my poems on behalf of SANE @CharitySANE, which supports people having mental or emotional difficulties. See my fundraising page on http: //www.justgiving.com/John-Raubenheimer
- A Lesson From The Master
- A Song For The Night
- All Your Wishes Will be Granted
- Appearances Are Deceptive.
- At The Charity Shop
- Back Seat
- Barefoot In A Red Dress
- Between The Seconds
- Breaking News In The South Africa Of My ...
- Bus Haiku
- Childhood At Crystal Waters
- Cleaning For Mrs L.
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Barefoot In A Red Dress
Barefoot in a red dress, toes curled in sand
scuffed by our dancing, you threw back your head -
a toss of your blonde mane that primed the band
and sang with savage flair to wake the dead.
How long had I known you? Just for an hour.
As you tamed wild drums what happened to me?
Dazed, entranced I stood, shaken by your power,
touched to my quick by your dark turn of key.
Afterwards we talked, as the fire sank low,