Walking to Africa

Jessica Le Bas


‘These poems are born out of maternal agony, strength, fear and love . . . The language darts and lifts and falls in order to move and astound’ – Paula Green, NZ Herald


On an ordinary day, in ordinary New Zealand, an ordinary girl becomes extraordinary. Told through her mother’s eyes, Walking to Africa follows the girl’s journey through the strange, new and sometimes frightening world of mental health care. We meet specialists A through F, other kids, friends who want to help, an angel/nurse and the Ghostman – alongside therapies and cures, strategies and rites.

Walking to Africa is a fluid and unusual narrative collection of poetry that portrays a parent’s experience of coming to terms with the new and frightening world of mental health care. Jessica Le Bas wrote the collection to find a place of reconciliation, a harbour from the waywardness of life. By the end of the book she ushers in understanding: mental illness may have no definitive solutions but there are ways of living with it. Walking to Africa is without doubt the most moving collection of poems to appear in New Zealand for many years.



Jessica Le Bas’s first collection, Incognito,won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for the Best First Book of Poetry at the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. She won the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition (2003) and the 2005 Bravado Poetry Competition for her poem ‘Walking to Africa’, and received a New Zealand Mental Health Foundation Media Grant in 2007 to write the book Walking to Africa. Le Bas has been a teacher, private secretary to a Minister in the Beehive, worked for the United Nations during the Balkan War as a training consultant and currently writes full time in Nelson, New Zealand.


October 2009, 230 x 165 mm, 96 pages
Paperback, ISBN 9781869404468, $24.99