The Life Righting Collective runs courses to encourage self-exploration through life writing, raises funds for course fees and brings people together to share their stories and grow community.

We all share the very human need to belong: to our families, our clan, our culture, our tribe. Feeling that we belong is no small thing: it can feel like the difference between life or death. When we are young, we cannot survive much less thrive without belonging to our families and community, belonging is crucial. We derive our sense of safety and wellbeing in the world when we feel held and understood by our clan. Belonging protects us from feeling alone and isolated. We’ll do almost anything not to rupture our sense of belonging even if it means lying about who we really are.

Paradoxically, an equally strong human need is to be fully self-expressed in our individuality and identity even if it doesn’t align with our family or culture.  And when these two needs clash, the suffering can be acute.

Born into a loving but staunchly Shia Muslim family, as the eldest son, much is expected of Mohsin: to do well academically, be successful in life, bring honour to his family, to marry and to have children.  He is a good and dutiful son in many respects except for one.  In his early teens, he realises with horror and shame that he feels as if he’s different from all other boys. Not only is he different, he is an abomination in the eyes of Allah, his community and his family: he is gay.

Mohsin is paralysed between the dread of losing his faith and family and the dream of living life as a gay man.  It seems that only by rejecting his faith can he begin to explore what it means to live a gay life.   This is so inconceivable to him, that at times suicide seems the only logical way out of this impossible conundrum, never mind that suicide is against Islam too. Caught in an intolerable trap, he asks himself; would his family prefer a gay son or a dead one?

What does the dutiful boy of this gripping memoir have to do to reconcile these two seemingly irresolvable aspects of his life?  Mohsin takes us along on his quest for reconciliation and explores the themes of community vs individuality, social acceptance vs cruel exclusion through the sharply observed lenses of his personal experience, the prejudices of the communities he finds himself in, as well as the media of the day. Mohsin writes with deceptive simplicity and straightforwardness yet beneath the surface of his story lies the powerful underpinning of clearly thought-out moral concepts articulated with support from his legal training.

This was a very satisfying read, a journey of personal growth as Mohsin learns how to meet his most profound needs – to belong to his culture and to do so on his own terms.

In the Garden of the Beloved: the theme of this year’s poetry festival in McGregor.

It was only afterwards, when I got home, fat with poetry, that I realised I’d arrived at McGregor dry-souled.

In the rose-fragrant Temenos gardens, there was beauty for the senses to feast on, every green pathway an invitation to detour from my destination and lose myself instead: cross paths with a peacock, meet a soft, grey cat, enter a tiny temple made entirely of blue and white light streaming through the stained glass walls, rest in the cool, dim-lit hush of The Well, a meditation room built around a bubbling fountain.

We were here, though, for the poetry and that offered a sensory banquet all its own. Who knew, listening to the love poetry of Malika Ndlovu, Nondwe Mpuma and Lara Kirsten - poems which spoke of tiny hairs standing on end, of mouths and tongues and dark earth and harvest - that it would have the audience sighing and whooping and clapping, unable to resist the erotic thrill that fizzed through the air at 9am on a Saturday morning.

Not only was there nourishment, there was remedy. Poetry as medicine for what ails us: our obsessive propensity for living only inside our heads.

Poetry compels our attention into our bodies, asks us to see what is invisible, feel what we don’t feel, speak the unspoken. It works on us, yielding a satisfying arrival at an inner congruence, a ‘yes’ as the words align, creating something whole, making sense in a place that doesn’t deal in logic.

At the Tebaldi’s open mic session on Saturday evening, the room was brimming with goodwill and kindness towards the 20 or so poets who read. We were all infused with a generosity of spirit – gulhartigheid, as Lara Kirsten had so passionately articulated at her earlier reading. What I liked as well was the diversity: we had readings from seasoned, published poets and those bravely reading for the first time in public. Topics ranged from encounters with snakes and raptors to profound grief and what being at home feels like, the shyness of awkward love and belly-laugh-out-loud humour. There were poems that had been written years ago, next to a poem freshly harvested that very day from the LRC’s poetry workshop run by Dawn.

Though it was quiet as each poet read, this was not a silent audience. There were murmurs, soft vibrating hums of agreement as words landed in the heart and reverberated. I want to say something about the power of reading poetry aloud – it’s through the unrepeatable yet palpable emotion carried in the human voice that the poem is brought alive inside our listening bodies.

Poems are wild creatures tamed through hard labour; dug for and unearthed, chased and wrestled with, birthed, fished out live and wriggling from deep pools. Speaking it aloud, expresses the aliveness of a poem, its own wildness, as if you’ve still got one foot on its tail to prevent it escaping. I do believe performance is poetry’s natural habitat in the wild.

We need the way poetry makes us feel.

Okay, many of us felt this in the end. If I were to complain about one thing, it would be the sheer surfeit of poetry and, honestly, how can anyone really complain about such a thing, so scratch that! I’ll say instead:

In the line of a poem by the late Candy Rohde read by her husband at the opening event, I left the festival feeling as if I were:

a field dipped in daisies’.

Daisies? So humdrum and commonplace! But that’s the work of poetry too… as if by magic, revealing the ordinary as ravishing.

Nina Geraghty is on the EXCO of the Life Righting Collective. She writes here in her personal capacity.

What a wonderful event this was!

From the rousing opening poetry-songs by Malika Ndlovu who so beautifully created the receptive space for what was to come, to the thoughtful and stirring readings and closing words of Phillipa Kabali-Kagwa, our chairperson, this event was one of the highlights on the LRC calendar.

Phillipa’s final words ‘writing can save your soul’ were an apt summing up of the motivation that fuels the purpose of the LRC.

After the opening, Jen Radloff led us in a delightful name-game involving soft-toys and much laughter.

A Fabulous AGM! Attendees

The LRC Exco (Dawn Garisch, Johan Jordaan, Giles Griffin, Nina Geraghty & Terry Ayugi) then presented the LRC Annual Report Highlights.  Please go and read the full report here. An astonishing amount of work went into this and a number of people contributed to creating its final stylish and readable format.  Special, grateful thanks to Giles Griffin and Jonathan Luies for writing and putting it all together. We’d love to get your feedback, please!

Acceptance of the annual report and financial statements was proposed by Cecily Camara and seconded by Lorraine Le Roux and Charlotte Mande Ilunga.

After a delicious bring-and-share lunch of favourite childhood dishes, everyone got into groups to discuss ideas for six key developments areas for the LRC for 2020:

  1. Courses and general logistics
  2. Membership & community-building
  3. Marketing
  4. Publishing
  5. Fundraising
  6. Partnership-building (eg with other NGOs, potential funding partners.)

These sub-groups generated valuable ideas and strategies for the future evolution of the LRC and then reported back to the larger group after their sessions.

A Fabulous AGM! Speakers

LRC members participated in these groups with such enthusiasm and energy! And while the topics were serious, it didn’t stop us from having fun summing up each discussion in a haiku as part of the feedback sessions!  We’ll be sharing our plans in future newsletters.

A Fabulous AGM! Mascot

The LRC mascot specially made for us by Jen Radloff  finally has a name! Names were submitted and voted on and the winning name was: MUZI.

We love how it suggests the ever-elusive Muse, musings and amusement. Any other meanings in different languages?


We’re thrilled to have Ella Scheepers and Caroline Southey join Desiree-Ann Martin and Terry Ayugi. as part of our fundraising team going into 2020.  A warm welcome!

So all that remains is for us to say is a BIG THANK YOU to all the members who participated in this important event!  It was very moving to see the enthusiasm and generosity with which you all contributed  to the success of the event.

Thank you for coming along to celebrate, share, and to help grow the LRC vision. 

matthew alan caretti bio pic for websiteWe're delighted to introduce you to LRC member Matthew Caretti and his award-winning publication of Harvesting Stones.

The Snapshot Press eChapbook Award is an annual international prize for unpublished small collections of haiku, tanka, and other short poetry. Winning collections are free to read and are available at the Snapshot eBooks page. Snapshot Press, founded in 1997, is an independent publisher specializing in English-language haiku, tanka and other short poetry by authors from around the world. Harvesting Stones was selected for the 2017 award and published in 2019.

Harvesting Stones tells of the coming-to-terms poet Matthew Caretti experiences as his father battles with and ultimately passes from cancer. In the traditional Japanese style of haibun, Matthew captures in vivid detail one man’s struggle for life and the small joys and underlying pain of his final eight months. The collection begins after the end, thus setting a contemplative frame for this collection. Each haibun piece then works to establish and explore the truth of impermanence, moment by moment.

Influenced in equal parts by his study of German language and literature, by the approach of the Beat writers, by his travels and by his Zen monastic training, Matthew is an LRC member and his work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, as well as several anthologies. His poems have also garnered a few awards here and there. Matthew served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Shatale, Mpumalanga Province, from 2003-2005, and attended to the education of the orphans as principal at Amitofo Care Centre in Mapanga, Malawi. He currently teaches English in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, while working on two book-length collections of haibun about his post-monastic pilgrimage and his time at the orphanage.

You can download Harvesting Stones free of charge here.

Our journey continues with Part 4 of Under the Covers with Desiree-Anne Martin.

In this final part of our 4-part series, Desiree-Anne shares with us the first and last sentences of her book, how her writing affected her life at the time of writing and how the process of writing ‘righted’ her life. As with the previous parts of the series, I found myself deeply moved by the way Desiree allowed the writing and her life to inform and transform one another. This gives me the heart to continue on my own journey – one which at this stage seems never ending. I am reminded that writing, as life, is a continuous process of openings and closures and that I can rest in trusting that both are a necessary part of the birthing of my own story.

"Isn't it about allowing closure completely and in going deeply, finding there is no such thing as closure? But an unformed, unknown level of knowing to be revealed." B. Prior 2019.

Q:Tell me a bit more about the first and last sentences of the book - when did it become clear what they would be and how did you recognize them as complete?

I didn't know I was going to write a prologue until I was halfway through the writing of the book. I wanted to contextualise the journey through my multitude of addictions as well as set the tone for the book. The opening sentence is, "Words are my drug of choice." and it was actually a micro poem I had created on my blog a few months before. As soon as I wrote that line, everything else in the prologue just flowed. In addition, I wanted to start with an unwavering truth about myself, that I am helplessly addicted to words, language, communication and self-expression through words. It felt strong and true. I knew intuitively that it was a good place to start.

I end the book with these two lines: "I had found my voice and the elusive love that for which I had been so desperately searching for my whole life. And it had been there the entire time, in the crowded basement of my own heart." It became clear that I wanted to end on a note of hope. I wanted a happy ending without it being a cliché, cheesy ending and those two lines sum up the conclusion of my journey from self-destruction to self-acceptance. I knew it was the perfect place and way to end this part of my story.

Q:How did the writing of the book influence what was unfolding in your life at the time? 

I believe it influenced both my own experience of myself as well as how I was relating to others and the world around me. It is difficult to delve into the darkest depths of a dysfunctional relationship on paper without it influencing the actual relationship in real-time. And because it is memoir, I was writing about a lot of people that were still in my life. On a personal level, I became obsessed with the completion of the book and dedicated so much time to it that I probably wasn't a very present parent, wife or friend. Having to go to those dark places impacted my mental health considerably. I realised how much I hadn't processed properly or digested about my life. I would take entire chapters to my therapist and say, "We're going here today." and process those traumatic or disturbing parts of my life and made them more palatable. I became depressed at times and elated at others and anxious in between, as is the nature of my mental health disorders. It was cathartic, it was painful, it was a journey that I do not regret embarking upon.

Q:Lastly, how did engaging with the process help ‘right’ your life. What was transformed in and around you as a result of the process?

I spoke my truth. I became insanely vulnerable and put my truth out into the world, fearing retribution and rejection. Instead, what I received was the most remarkable feedback from people telling my how my story, my truth, resonated with them and gave them the courage to find their voice and speak their truth. It connected me with people that I otherwise would never have had the privilege of knowing. It was deeply profound. The process changed me irrevocably and "righted" my life in the sense that I didn't have to continue the legacy of secret-keeping, shame and dysfunction. It helped me to be a brave warrior woman and face my own demons and become okay with that shadow side that had kept me silent for so long. It made it okay for me to be authentic, for me to just be me. And that is good enough.

So ends our 4-part interview series with Desiree-Anne Martin.  Our thanks and gratitude to Desiree and Helena Wagener for taking the time to both ask and answer important and intimate questions about the glorious, devilish, maddening and ultimately gratifying process of writing memoir.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Very pleased to have an article in July's edition of Balanced Life Magazine. Thank you Robyn Lane:

conscious life magazine july 2019

Listen to Vicky Cole of CCFM interview Dawn Garisch, Chalotte Illunga and Nathan Festus.

We are delighted to see Janet Giddy's review of This Is How It Is in the South African Medical Journal.  You can read it online here  or below.  Thank you so much Janet! Copies of the anthology are available here.

janet giddy s tihii review in samj page 001 crop

It's said that we all have a story inside of ourselves but many of us believe we don't have anything relevant or particularly interesting to say to the world.  However, learning life writing doesn't always have to be about getting published. The truth is, learning to write about our lives with curiosity and openness can lead to surprising discoveries about ourselves, things we didn't even know we know. Creativity is our birthright and the skills you need to write creatively are the same skills you need to live your life creatively.

Listen on Cape Talk to Dawn Garisch  chatting to Sara-Jayne King  (author of memoir Killing Karoline)  about  how life writing can be a portal into creativity, self-awareness and so much more.

What don't you know about your own story?  Click here to see up-coming courses run by the LRC.


As the LRC spreads its wings, we need to grow our organisation so we're thrilled to have two newly qualified Life Righting course facilitators both of whom are on our Executive team as well:

Linda Kaoma

Linda is a poet, writer, projects and events manager in the arts. She is a Salzburg Global Seminars Fellow and a CNN-featured project manager with over eight years of experience in project and event management in the arts sector. In 2013, she performed in Amsterdam at the Afro Vibes Festival alongside Dutch poet Babs Gons, in a poetic production entitled Becoming Another, Becoming You.

She was a panellist and facilitator at the Open Book Festival in 2014, 2017 and 2018 and at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in 2015 and 2016. She’s also shared her work locally and in Austria, Ghana, and Kenya. Her work has been published on Unbranded Truth Online Magazine, which she founded and edited, on Badilisha Poetry X-change, and on the Life Righting Collective website, as well as in New Contrast. She is a contributing author to the Life Righting Collective's This is how it is anthology, with her hilarious piece “Mrs".

Giles Griffin

Giles was born in 1962 in Kent, aka the Garden of England, UK. Giles is a gay white male who likes food, wine and books. He was brought up mostly in the Midlands of England, spending time in London and the past 25 years in Cape Town. During this time, he worked as a copywriter for a variety of advertising agencies and for Triangle Project, whose focus is LGBTI health. He is moved by “nature, mothers, unspoken emotion, unjust oppression, a finely turned bicep and creativity - in particular gastronomic and literary innovation."

"Gone viral", whose opening passage appears in the LRC's first anthology, This is how it is, is a personal and public eulogy - both for those who have gone before and those who have survived the HIV pandemic.

The Life Righting Collective runs courses to encourage self-exploration through life writing, raises funds for course fees and brings people together to share their stories and grow community.
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