About the book

What does it mean to leave the country—and the people—you love? To be uprooted from the soil that gave birth to, and nurtured you? To abandon both your past and your hoped-for future and embark on a voyage of uncertainty? In Refugee Song, Lawrence Feuchtwanger weaves together fragmented memories of his South African childhood, youth, and self-exile, with the stories of others—refugees, the displaced and dispossessed, voyagers—who were forced, or chose to leave their homes; his Jewish forebears, Africa's colonized and colonizers, heroic and tragic characters from Greek mythology.

About the author

Feuchtwanger, Lawrence

Lawrence Feuchtwanger has had a varied and interesting career. He has been a journalist, tree-planter, baker and counsellor. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, he immigrated to Canada in 1976 after two years of living in England and travelling overland through Africa, from Egypt to Southern Africa. He lives in Vancouver with his Canadian-born wife, near his children and grandchildren.

Excerpt

Fugue

Return is exile,
to and from,
doing and undoing time,
crossing parallels.

Who is that calling?

Sit still,
be transported.
Weave, unravel, pour day back
into night.
Untell this story.

This shaky craft
lifts
on a rising tide of longing, towards a promise of land,
a scallop of earth,
somewhere

lists against the flawed logic of the senses,
tugs at gravity’s embrace,
as the things that hold me here — wife, child — 
lose depth.

The world unfurls.

The world up against itself,
sharp upthrust,
geological accident, ancient and imminent.
On the cusp of an invisible sea,
the city, still barely asleep.

The Fraser River, reaching for home,
looses herself.
Penelope, rooted to her wanton bed,
hand spread across her delta
to ward off the unwanted loneliness of loyalty.

Far below, plains bleed,
fractal islands weep.

A buried narrative,
indifference of ocean ripples on mountaintops
spilling white,
something to cry over.

What has put me here?

Midway between there and here;
death.

The end of something,
due date on a refugee nightmare,
return to red earth.

In this pressurized steel curve,
doppler pause above mid-ocean wave,
parsing my self going the other way,
dulcet is what soothes,
faux longing on Channel Five,
piped accent sliding towards the universal,
Afro-Americo-Euro-
oh, oh, so horizontal elevator cuisine,
East is…and West is…
and never…and always…

Amidst the polar stars, groping our way
along the edge
of this fragile celestial carapace,
we locate ourselves

by satellite and triangulation,
plastic utensil and free drinks,
by hemisphere and the nonspecific,
the direction water flows,
by the setting back of time, hour by hour,
the slight declension in the colour of skin

the loss of a vowel,
swallowing of a consonant,
by the inchward progress,
self-erasing tilt and swivel,
the tug and pull,
heart-flip missed beat
of the digital plane
on a blank screen.

Reviews

In Refugee Song, Lawrence Feuchtwanger takes the reader on a psychic journey back to the land of his birth, using sharply etched, taut, visceral poems to provide signposts along the way. Filled with echoes of longing and the ache that accompanies… >>

— Michael Mirolla, author of Berlin

It's rare to find a first collection of poems so layered with consequence and intoxicating metaphor. Feuchtwanger's account of his return visit to South Africa 'to unbury the dead' is exquisite and excruciating. This is an elegant and substantial new… >>

— Betsy Warland, author of Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing

What does it mean to leave the country—and the people—you love? To be uprooted from the soil that gave birth to, and nurtured you? To abandon both your past and your hoped-for future and embark on a voyage of uncertainty?… >>

— Tan Light All Lit Up


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