The poet comments that he is like his father in every way. He behaves like his father, speaks like his
father, and even has his father's temper. They differ only in the fact that he is a poet whereas his father
ABOUT THE POET
Chris Van Wyk was born in Soweto and lived his early years in Newclare before moving to Riverlea, a
poorer suburb of Johannesburg.
He was educated at Riverlea High School before working for a non-government organisation known as
SACHED - South African Committee for Higher Education - where he was an educational writer.
He was also the editor of Staffrider and started the short-lived Wietie magazine with
fellow poet, Fhazel Johennesse.
Van Wyk showed signs of wanting to be a writer as early as five years of age - and since then, he says,
he has had a love affair with words.
He credits much of his success in storytelling to his love of "skinder" (gossip). "I skinder more than most
women," he says, and explains that he listened to all the gossip between his mother and her friends. This
eventually found its way into the many stories which he thereupon wrote.
"You will not believe the kind of information you can pick up just by keeping your ears open," van Wyk
says, although there are certain little tricks you have to observe to prevent yourself from being caught
These include not behaving like a quiet little mouse but rather making noises, "like drinking a glass of
water" or singing bits from pop songs or calling to the dog outside, or doing something like reading or
writing while you are also preoccupied in listening.
But above all, he says, don't give yourself away by laughing at a joke that you have overheard. "If you do,
it's a dead giveaway and means that you've had your ears tuned on them all the time."
Van Wyk has written over 20 books, including poetry collections and children's stories. He published his
first volume of poetry in 1979 - It is time to go home - which was to win him the prestigious
Schreiner Prize the following year.
He would win other awards for his novels and short stories, including the Maskew Miller Longman Award
for Black Children's Literature in 1982 and the Sanlam Literary Award for the best short story of 1995.
His first novel - The Year of the Tapeworm - was published in 1998 while, in 2004, his
childhood memoir Shirley, Goodness & Mercy became a successful play by director Janice
Unlike many South African writers who wrote "as a weapon against apartheid", van Wyk preferred to use
humour as his primary weapon. "We've got our own magic, lots of it," he says.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Kathy, and they reared their two sons in Riverlea where he has lived
most of his life. "I want to be part of this community," he says. "There's an element of the writer that
keeps me here."
Have you looked at the questions
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