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Gillian Katz

January 7, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars

Kaleidoscope, January 6, 2013

By Alan King (Connecticut, USA)


This review is from: Kaleidoscope (Paperback) Kaleidoscope


"If you have known how to compose your life, you have done a great deal more than the person who knows how to compose a book," Michel de Montaigne once wrote. Poet Gillian Lynn Katz has managed to accomplish both in her second book of poetry, "Kaleidoscope." This gifted poet and accomplished author continues to embrace and write about her story growing-up in South Africa during the 1960's as she describes herself as a "white child of Africa." Katz left her country and childhood behind in 1966 at the age of thirteen during the Apartheid Regime, and came to the United States to begin a new life with her parents and sisters.


This modern day immigrant and poet's quest to make sense of her South African past and the life she left behind describes in "Kaleidoscope" the poignant details and memories that have shaped her life. The author's first book: "Witness to the Birth and Death of My Country" is also a lucid and compelling autobiographical collection of poetry, essays, and fiction.


"Although apartheid was pretty brutal in its form," Katz says, "I was really a protected upper class young white Jewish girl who knew nothing of the struggles of the rest of my countrymen until after I got to the United States. Censorship was so great back then that I had no idea what was going on in my country. They didn't even teach us the facts in history lessons."


Katz's unique and sometimes unconventional voice is illustrated in her poem CHICKEN RUN: "Apartheid: you have torn me from my roots, the sunbaked grassland where the baobab tree with its gnarled arms like large octopus tentacles reaches into the burnt orange sky, its trunk as thick as an elephant."


What is particularly striking is the wonderful original imagery of Katz's poetry. In the poem TIN CUP, TIN PLATE, ". . . each piece as thick as a brick smothered in raspberry jam," in SCARSDALE, "I still feel the thunderclap: the cloudburst that blew a flower petal across two continents," and in YESTERDAY - TODAY AND TOMORROW: "My grandparents showed me those flowers that sparkled in the morning dew in Johannesburg gardens of my youth. Now the gardens have changed, There'r different things I do -- In Scarsdale gardens I have a new truth."


Katz allows her instincts to serve her well as she continues to reminisce and draw upon her earlier experiences in South Africa while capturing the memories of her homeland that she loved so well. When asked if she would have liked to stay in South Africa, she replies emphatically, "If the country hadn't been under an insane government, I would have stayed there for the rest of my life and been a lot happier than I was moving back and forth like I did as a teenager." She goes on to say, "I didn't struggle growing up in South Africa. We had a great life there. My struggles happened after I came to the USA with the culture shock and then going back to South Africa, and again coming back to the United States all while still in high school."


As I place "Kaleidoscope" down on my desk while enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I can't help but think of the immortal words of Don Hewitt who would often say, "Tell me a story!" I knew Gillian Katz had done just that.


The author holds a Master of Arts degree in writing from Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York, and has published poetry, creative non-fiction, and non-fiction in various newspapers and magazines. She also teaches creative writing and poetry at the Summer Arts Camp in Scarsdale, New York, and poetry writing at the Scarsdale Adult School.

Alan W. King, MFA, MAW, is a freelance writer and may be reached at


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