Toti poet pours her soul into her passion

2018-01-17 06:01
Rozanne Baker.PHOTO:Tania Sandberg

Rozanne Baker.PHOTO:Tania Sandberg

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ROZANNE Baker recently won the Sapphire Coast Tourism poetry competition with her entry “Sapphire Coast – Our Precious Jewel”.

The winning quickly sparked interest in the Toti poet and she proved to be a “hidden gem”.

The year 2003 marked a highlight in Rozanne’s life when she was invited by the International Society of Poets, in the U.S. to read her poetry at a three-day poetry symposium at the Washington Hilton Hotel, in Washington DC.

A total of 1 500 poets had been chosen worldwide, from 4 000 000 entries. She read her poem, “Hurt Soul”, about the feelings a parent experiences when having to “let go the reins” when teenagers reach independence.

She was awarded a trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry, and was presented with a commemorative bronze medallion, which read “Poet of Merit for 2003”.

“Hurt Soul” also received the Editor’s Choice Award and was one of 33 poems chosen to be professionally recorded onto an international CD called “The Sound of Poetry”.

Rozanne is one of four born to Sybil and Ivor Language of Amanzimtoti. She is the second eldest, followed by her brother Hilton. The third sibling is sister Dimity and the youngest, her brother Keith.

She began her junior primary schooling in Toti, but as her father was a journalist and was frequently offered career promotions, the family lived in many places and Rozanne attended eight schools. Most of her senior school years were spent at Durban Girls’ College.

In 1965, Hilton then 18, who was doing his military service in Pretoria, was killed in a motor car accident. He was given a full military funeral.

He had kept bee hives in Amanzimtoti in his earlier years, and to this day, there is a “bee story” to tell.

After matriculating Rozanne trained as a teacher, and as her father had just been transferred to the Fleet Street newspaper office in London, Rozanne’s first teaching post was at a small private school on the banks of the Thames, in Putney, London.

She later returned to Amanzimtoti, where she married Sean Baker, and continued to teach locally. After a couple of years, they returned to London, where they spent the next 18 months, living and working.

Rozanne has attended two “garden parties” at Buckingham Palace, which she says, was an honour. Before returning to South Africa, they toured the Greek island of Corfu, France, Switzerland and Italy.

In 1986, her brother Keith, then 28, who was serving his conscription duty in the police force in Scottburgh, was deliberately run down and killed by the driver of an overloaded taxi, allegedly “just for wearing a police uniform”. Keith was given a full police funeral. The family was, again, devastated.

The following year, 1987, Rozanne began the emotional outpouring of her soul. She began “Writing to God”, which was the beginning of her poetry journey.

She compiled a book of nine poems called Reflections. Four years later her father died as the shock and trauma of losing both his sons had taken its toll on his health. He was given a full Moth funeral.

In 2008, her life took yet another turn when her mother Sybil had a stroke and had to be admitted into frail care, which is where she lived for the next nine and a half years.

During this time Sybil developed Alzheimer’s and died in September 2017.

Rozanne, who says she is “no expert on Alzheimer’s” sat, almost every day, watching, listening, seeing and feeling the adverse effects the disease imposes.

This resulted in her compiling a perpetual calendar, called “Special Memories” – using the poems she had written, through visiting her mother to try to raise awareness among the public, families of sufferers and caregivers, of the effects this disease unleashes.

Printing of the calendars was sponsored, and the calendars were presented to the Alzheimer’s Association for fund-raising purposes. This is an ongoing project and is Rozanne’s way of giving back.

Over the years Rozanne’s poetry has taken many different directions - her poems published in many South African anthologies and magazines and printed onto bookmarks, cushions, mugs and wall posters.

They have been used at funerals, weddings, reunion dinners, schools, churches, guest houses and as friendship gifts.

Rozanne and Sean have two daughters, Susan and Megan, and three grandchildren. She also spent almost 15 years at Kingsway Hospital as the nursing manager’s personal assistant.

Apart from writing poetry, Rozanne enjoys writing lyrics for songs. She now has a collection of 37 songs – waiting for a musician to assist with the musical accompaniment. Her dream is to hear these songs played, in perhaps, a folk-rock genre.

Until then, she’ll hold on to her dreams. - Supplied.

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