It is always a pleasure to spend time with creative and deep thinking people and a chat over hot chocolate with Kalk Bay writer and poet Dawn Garisch was no exception.

Dawn spent the first seven years of her life in Zimbabwe and thereafter in boarding schools in Knysna and Cape Town. She started writing at an early age – poems and “newspapers” for her own enjoyment. After the birth of her elder son she pursued her talent with greater intensity, although still  writing for her own pleasure. It was the encouragement of Rob Berold, then editor of the New Coin poetry journal, following a workshop on poetry editing that she did with him, that led to the publishing of her first novel, a story for young people. She has since had 2 further novels for youth, two adult novels, a poetry collection and adult literacy books published. Also on her list of achievements are a  play and a short film, both of which have been produced and articles for newspapers magazines and television. She is currently working on her first non-fiction book, an autobiography entitled ‘Words and Flesh, travels in the Eloquent Body’ which examines the two aspects of her working life – writing and doctoring. For more see

Central to Dawn’s writings are the themes of the use and abuse of power, our relationship with the landscape, the cycle of love, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness, relationships – personal and political, and being awake to ourselves and our world. For her creative acts are essential for mental health. She sees her writing as an act of self-care.



1994     Not Another Love Story published by Heinemann SA.

1995     Stoning the Tree published by Heinemann, SA.

2003     Babyshoes published by Simon and Schuster, UK.

2007     Once, Two Islands published by Kwela Books, SA.

2008     Once, Two Islands published by Myrmidon Books, UK.

2009     Trespass published by Kwela Books, SA.

2011     Trespass published by Myrmidon Books, UK.

Dawn is a “self-taught” writer, writing from what comes from within. Amongst the authors who have made the biggest impact on her are Virginia Woolf, Patrick White and Salman Rushdie and the poets Ted Hughes and Sharon Olds.

Dawn is a recipient of the Avanti Award for a documentary ‘Dancing With The Ancestors’ for which she wrote the script, a DALRO award for poetry, and an ANFASA and a NAC grant to complete ‘Words and Flesh’. Her latest novel, Trespass, was nominated for the Commonwealth prize in Africa.

She is a practising medical doctor, has two grown sons and has lived in Kalk Bay in the Scenic South for the past 41/2 years. Why Kalk Bay? “Because of the fabulous restaurants, the live music, theatre, art galleries and the fact that it is a real community. One rarely has need to get  into a motorcar! ”

For information about Dawn’s workshops on writing one’s memoirs and life stories see

A taste of Dawn’s poetry….

Great Fish

My father caught great fish, tiger fish.
He pulled their gleaming, dancing bodies
from the jaws of the Zambezi, severed
and salted their heads and strung them up to dry:
necklaces of death.

I felt them watching as I played
with trucks, earth and sticks,
amongst the mielie stalks;
their trapped, flat eyes
never leaving my back.

Sometimes I would chance a look
and see their rows of razor teeth
invite the blood that leapt in my finger
to touch them.

I could have touched,
seen my blood run.

I went inside at my mother’s call,
washed the dirt off my hands and face,
sat still and straight at a white, starched table,
and ate their bodies.

Bee Man

The man I met with kind, hurt eyes
– over drinks at a braai –
described his work with bees:
how he’d hold a swarm,
drunk with smoke, in his arms.
I could see it: armfuls of sleepy bees
pouring from his embrace – slow honey.

He put a glass of mead he’d made
into my hand. The smooth honey-wine
slid into my centre and stung.
I wanted more

but as day succumbed to night,
with the insistent buzzing of insects,
I saw how he undid himself
– smoking drunk –
unable to hold a thing except
the ferment trapped inside his face –
swollen and red
with the woken rage of bees.