Thursday, 29 November 2007

A Day at the Races

Sinclair Beiles and I go to Turffontein Racecourse for the day; he wants to check out the local fillies, he tells me.
We’re waiting at the starting post but none of the horses seem in the mood for racing; it’s been raining the day before and the ground is muddy and water-logged in patches.
“Do you think they’ll call it off?” Sinclair asks. Then, suddenly waving his arms in the air, he yells: “I can’t find any decent heroin in this place!”
We start walking down the track and encounter a heap of arms – young children’s arms – freshly amputated.
“It’s like Kurtz’s memory of the village in Apocalypse Now,” says Sinclair, but I already have the theme music from Twin Peaks in my head.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Botsotso 14

Botsotso 14 has just been published and includes poetry and prose by writers such as Mike Alfred, Vonani Bila, Motjidibane Bapela, Ike Mboneni Muila, Joop Bersee, Anton Kruger, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Liesl Jobson, Lionel Murcott, Mark Espin, Arja Salafranca, Anna Varney, Muthal Naidoo, Kobus Moolman and Haidee Kruger.
Botsotso is published by Botsotso Publishing.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

New publication from Dye Hard Press: Full Circle by Kobus Moolman

Full Circle

a play

by Kobus Moolman

ISBN: 978-0-620-39270-9

The year is 1994. Seven years before, Meisie and Boetie's father was killed when his car was hijacked. Meisie was with her father in the car but, being blind, she did not see the hijacker's face. However, she never forgot the voice that laughed as her father was shot.

Meisie and Boetie now live with their uncle on a farm in the former northern Transvaal. With other Afrikaner extremists, they plan to bring about the downfall of the new government.

One day, though, a black police inspector arrives at the farm and to Meisie his voice is strangely familiar...
Full Circle is a hard-hitting drama about power, identity and transition. The play combines elements of the thriller and of film noir in an iconoclastic display of ethnic nationalism and religious fundamentalism.

It premiered at the Grahamstown Arts Festival in 2005, and was performed at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg and the Oval House Theatre in London in 2006.

“A work of luminous beauty . . . a topographical map of pain, revenge and justice working through, despite human intention.” – Robert Greig, The Sunday Independent

“A gripping, perceptive and totally absorbing play.” – Margaret von Klemperer, The Witness

Full Circle is available from bookstores countrywide at an estimated retail price of R125 per copy. If ordered directly from the publisher, the price is R80 per copy, including postage. E-mail for order details.

Kobus Moolman teaches creative writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is the author of four collections of poetry; his most recent being Separating the Seas, published by University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. He is also the author of Blind Voices, a collection of radio plays recently published by Botsotso Publishing.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Monument Square, Budapest - Bruno Sourdin

An example of mail art from French collagist and poet Bruno Sourdin.

Friday, 09 November 2007

Print explosion a good omen for SA authors

The past few years have seen a surge in South African publishing and the industry has never been so active and vibrant. New titles by local authors are published regularly and new imprints are, in the words of author Finuala Dowling, “breeding like lilies”.

For newly established or emerging writers, this explosion in local publishing is an exciting time, especially with the opportunities it provides for wider exposure to readers, both locally and internationally.

Dowling, the author of two collections of poetry and two novels – the latest being Flyleaf, published by Penguin - says: “I’d sum up publishing in SA today with the word ‘fecund’. Starting off as a poet and short story writer, I was naturally off the radar. Novels bully their way into the literary limelight. I’ve overcome that by writing a couple of my own bullies.”

This enthusiasm is shared by Dawn Garisch, author of the novel Once, Two Islands, published by Kwela: “I am excited to part of what feels like a whole new era in South African publishing. Since 1994 it feels that the lid has come off … More authors and publishers are taking risks with what can be said and how it is said, and I am continually astonished by the profusion of new releases … There was a time, not long ago, when a certain snobbery meant that few South African authors were thought good enough, and I must confess I was one of them. Nowadays, I read a South African book ahead of one by a foreigner.”

Margie Orford, author of two novels, Like Clockwork and Blood Rose, both published by Oshun, is likewise excited by the current publishing activity, although in her case overseas publishing looks set to prove more lucrative: “I was thrilled when Oshun took Like Clockwork. My agent Isobel Dixon of Blake Friedman Literary and Film Agency in London subsequently sold the rights for Like Clockwork and Blood Rose to Blanvalet, an imprint of Random House in Germany for a substantial amount of money. I also have a very generous book deal with a Dutch publisher. Like Clockwork has also been sold to small publishers in Russia and the Czech Republic. So I am making a living from writing fiction but not in SA. Here my royalties have been relatively small... I must say though it is wonderful to be published in one’s home market.”

But there is a difference in being an author of a novel and an author of a collection of poems, says Mark Espin, whose debut collection of poems, Falling from Sleep, has been published by Botsotso. “This is of course not a uniquely South African situation. The readership for poetry generally, and certain kinds of poetry particularly, is just so marginal that being a newly published poet in SA really does not make an earth-shattering difference to one’s existence.”

Haidee Kruger, who debut poetry collection Lush: Poems for Four Voices was recently published by Protea Books, says the experience of being published is “a little bit like winning the lottery, though perhaps not totally as random as that. I feel very lucky, very privileged to be published. And there is an element of chance in it – so many other factors play a role apart from the merit of the book itself.”

The publishing market in SA is also becoming quite diverse, and there has been a rise in the number of dedicated and innovative independent publishers popping up alongside the bigger, more financially equipped commercial publishers.

“Mainstream, commercial publishing, by its nature, has to cater for very specific markets with very particular tastes,” says Kruger. “This is one of the factors influencing what and who gets published. Moreover, a book is not only a book – as with everything else, the buyer buys into a package, an image, a lifestyle even. This is the case everywhere, but perhaps in the relatively small South African publishing industry this is exacerbated.

“Independent publishers play a crucial role. Although they too obviously have particular markets and financial motivations and constraints, their markets are often (though not always) different to the markets catered for by mainstream publishers. Independent publishers provide a space in which difference, oddity, otherness, idiosyncrasy may find expression and dissemination. That is important.”

Megan Hall, whose debut poetry collection Fourth Child has been published by Modjaji Books, says: “I am delighted that independent publishers seem to be making a comeback after a period in the doldrums. They broaden and deepen the reach of publishing in SA and keep bigger publishers on their toes.”

Garisch agrees: “Independent publishers must be commended for holding a particular door open. Even though they may reach a small audience, I believe they nourish and deepen the culture for us all.”

“There are several really interesting developments,” says Espin. "The Community Publishing Project at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town has certainly given many people the opportunity and encouragement to do their writing. Mainstream publishers are doing some wonderful books in an environment that is challenging at best. Independent publishers will, however, always give the publishing arena the energy and the edge which is so fundamental to keeping things lively and interesting.”

The success of a book – and thus sales revenue to the publisher – is also very much dependent on a receptive reading public who are influenced by finances, accessibility to books, cultural preference (and sometimes prejudice) as well as competitive attractions.

“It’s a complex issue,” says Espin. “I am convinced that reading is something that we all want to do. There are though many questions about the access of many in our society have to reading material. The state of our public libraries, the prohibitive pricing of books and the location of bookshops are all contributing factors to the sad state of reading in SA. The seduction of hi-tech alternatives for leisure time is a major challenge to reading. There is therefore the vast chasm between two extremes: the absence of books in the deprived rural space and the neglect of books in the privileged urban space.”

“Relatively few people buy books, especially poetry books, on a regular basis,” says Kruger. “Of course, if you have to chosen between food and books, you’ll chose food. But even people who can afford books would rather buy a DVD, a Playstation game or a pair of jeans.”

Other writers, however, are optimistic, such as Dowling: “SA readers seem really keen to try out new, local writing. You only have to look at the crowds passing through the Cape Town Book Fair to get a sense of their passion. It’s mostly for novels and nonfiction, but there’s a definite audience for poetry and literary essays.”

But Dowling agrees that the state of reading of book buying in SA could be improved and this could be assisted by SA having “more properly remunerated professional book reviewers. The Afrikaans press is way ahead when it comes to flagging good new writing.”

Orford feels it is important to expand the book buying and reading public beyond the suburban ambit of Exclusive Books and Wordsworth (in Western Cape). One way is through libraries, she suggests.

Espin agrees that in SA we should start with developing public library and school library facilities. “The grant by the arts and culture minister is a wonderful start, but it remains merely a start. If libraries are in a position to purchase locally purchased books more extensively, it will provide a useful impetus to the publishing industry,” he says.

“I look forward to the effect that the government’s increased library spending will have in different ways,” says Hall. “The influence of government policy, that is education policy, on South African publishing, cannot be underrated. I look forward to a resurgence in publishing in African languages, and hope that publishing in Afrikaans continues to be well-supported and reasonably well-supplied.”

But Kruger feels that publishers themselves could contribute to encouraging book buying by making books look more appealing. Books “need to awake the buyer’s desire to posses it, as an object,” she says. “This is a bit sad, but true. I think that possibly, for a person who is interested in buying books, a great cover may sometimes be a clincher. But I don’t think this will push somebody who isn’t interested in books to buy them.”

Overall, though, there is general optimism about the future of publishing in SA, although the issue of reaching audiences and widening readership remain challenges.

“Growing the reading public would be a great thing,” says Hall, “but generally I am not gloomy about publishing in SA. There are many dedicated and creative people involved in the industry.”

Orford sees the future of publishing in SA as being “dominated by schools publishing, where most of the money is. But the energy is good. I do sometimes think it might be an overtraded market but I think publishers are focusing more on quality and not so much on filing lists. I was interested to see that the Afrikaans translation of Like Clockwork sold well and quickly, much more quickly than the English version. Maybe that is where the future lies?”

“The publishing industry in SA seems to be alive and well,” says Kruger. “It is growing and maturing, testing itself. There are many established and newer publishers, both commercial and independent, focusing on interesting South African, African or global stories. They are exploring many different voices, expanding genres, moving away from singular focuses on politics or personals – exploring the interfaces between these, exploring other dimensions too. There are so many possibilities, still. That’s pretty exciting.”

Dowling, however, is slightly cynical: “I think publishers will continue to bring out large volumes of books, not necessarily all books that they completely believe in. They’ll let market forces decide on the fate of the book (and the author). For big publishers, it probably makes sense to work this way, reasoning that somewhere along the line you’ll happen upon a Spud or a Harry Potter or a Da Vinci Code.”

(First published in Business Day's Books and Publishing supplement, November 2007)

Independents give a voice to the voiceless

They are passionate about being able to make sure that strange,odd, misunderstood, peculiar, yet important, voices don't get overlooked

Since 1994, a number of independent publishing initiatives have started up in SA, often operating on small budgets but with immense dedication and energy from their founders. Technological advancements in digital publishing have also often helped them to produce quality books at lower cost, plus – as poet Karen Press pointed out in the literary journal New Coin - the feeling of freedom experienced after the first democratic elections also no doubt contributed to this burst of creativity.

Independent publishers are, however often referred to and regarded as small publishers, though this is a label several of them, for good reasons, dislike.

Vonani Bila, of Elim Hospital, Limpopo-based Timbila Poetry Project, says: “Independent, like the term ‘alternative’, should not suggest shoddy work. I go through all the necessary stages of publishing a quality book with the involvement of the author. I give voice to writers whose work wouldn’t necessarily be published by big, corporate and so-called mainstream and commercial publishers. These are the poets who are not afraid to challenge the rot they live or witness in society.”

This view is echoed by Goodenough Mashego, from Shatale, Mpumalanga. Mashego recently started up Ten Workers Media and sees an independent publisher as one “who is independent of the market forces that determine who should be published instead of who deserves to be published…They are independent because they can afford to think without pressure from greedy shareholders but are instead driven by their commitment to literary development.”

Robert Berold of Deep South in Grahamstown shares the same preference for literary quality over profit: “It’s like independent record labels – small, not corporate, doing the publishing mainly for art’s sake. It’s more flexible, more risk-taking, more anarchistic. The term ‘small publisher’ is okay, though it has a dimension of insignificance.”

Johannesburg-based Botsotso Publishing’s Allan Kolski Horwitz says “the term ‘independent’ connotes freedom from restraints, both ideological and commercial. We should reject the term small because it reflects on scale and, perhaps, ambition.”

An exception to the preference for “independent” is Cape Town’s Modjaji Books, recently launched by Colleen Higgs, who says: “I prefer the term ‘small’. It is a matter of small staff – myself – and few books.”

For Johannesburg’s Pineslopes Publications’ Aryan Kaganof, however, the labels are unimportant: “I’m concerned with publishing books that I believe in.”

Over and over the above the commitment that these publishers have about the work that they produce, there are also clear views about their role, which sometimes has a wider socioeconomic and politically context as opposed to a more limited literary context.

Bila says: “We must publish books that matter…We must not promote mediocrity, the stuff that is ceaselessly churned out by commercial publishers chasing cash, topical stories and often exploiting vulnerability.
“We also need to promote writing and publishing in all South African languages, and give voice to excluded black, rural and women writers, as well as those writers and poets who says things that annoy those that wield power – be it government or business.”

Mashego also takes a strong stance of giving a voice to the voiceless: “SA has got lots of stories that need to be told. They are hidden between the uncombed beards of street vagrants and the dreadlocks of Rastafarians…Our role as independent publishers is to go out into the villages, streets and prisons and unearth those stories that the mainstream finds too unattractive because the storytellers are unattractive members of our society.”

Berold and Higgs take a somewhat cooler view of an independent publisher’s role, which is “to print work that has real literary value but little market potential because the writer is unknown or the work to challenging, either politically or intellectually,” says Berold. “In a cultural desert like SA, independent publishers have a huge role.”

For Higgs it is a matter of “taking risks - publishing good work by writers who may not as yet have the recognition they deserve. It is also about publishing genres – such as poetry or drama – that the mainstream publishers may not want to tackle. To be at the cutting edge, seeking out new talent, creating more space for new voices”.

Kaganof, however, is cynical about the role of independent publishers: “It is to allow us to pretend there is an audience for anything outside of the mainstream.”

Considering that independent publishers are playing a marginal role in an overwhelmingly commercialised book market, it is not surprising that they sometimes view commercial publishers with ambivalence.

“Independent publishers don’t have a huge voice in shaping SA’s publishing direction,” says Bila. “It is the big publishers who are represented in book-related councils set up by the state. Their participation through the Publishing Association of SA, or as individual big publishers, gives them more access to government opportunities, especially to supply schools.”

To Mashego, “the situation is simple: book fairs, like the Cape Town one, are meant for commercial publishers have no space for independent publishers. Book retailers are not kind to independent publishers because we can’t provide them with the same benefits and perks that commercial publishers can. The attitude should be that the literary world created by commercial publishers is not the ultimate one…we have the right to create our own. We are entitled to our own book fair without the commercial publishers, we are entitled to our own awards where we don’t compete with writers whose publishers have the ability to befriend the judges. We need to establish our own distribution and marketing networks.”

Kaganof views the work of commercial and independent publishers are different: “I don’t think they are concerned with us and I certainly don’t think we should be concerned with them.”

Berold says he “doesn’t mind” commercial publishers “though it would be nice if they could acknowledge the importance of independent publishers”.

For Higgs there is no conflict: “I don’t see us as incompatible. They are working in different parts of the same field. They are also doing important work and they do it professionally. We can learn much from engaging with them and taking advice.”

Thus for independent publishers it is not simply a matter of publishing books – that is, being focused on making a profit – but rather of playing an active role in contributing to the ongoing development of South African writing and introducing that writing to local readers.

As Bila says: “We make quality books. We are germinating ground for some of SA’s successful poets. Few big publishers run literary journals. It is often the independents who are prepared to create outlets for new and established authors. Independents also run writing workshops.”

Mashego highlights that independent publishers “are addressing pertinent issues that need to be voiced. I think the contribution of independent publishers must be weighed against our own democracy that requires plurality of opinions. We have own mainstream writers who are praise singing and telling us about the intelligence of people in authority. We need a balanced picture… those that tell the other picture, the less rosy picture, are the independents.”

“The work of the most lasting significance is published by the small publishers,” says Kaganof, and Berold points out that almost every new poet’s first book is published by an independent. “Fiction is a bit different, though, there seems to be a commercial market,” he adds.

Independents can also play a role in niche publishing. “It can make sure that strange, odd, misunderstood, peculiar, yet important, voices don’t get overlooked,” says Higgs.

But from a financial point of view, as well as in wider aspects of recognition, independent publishers face substantial challenges. Many independents, such as Botsotso, Deep South and Timbila, are reliant on public funding from bodies such as the National Arts Council or the Arts and Culture Trust.

“Financial constraints are always the bane of producing art,” says Horwitz, “and dependence on public funding is not always a guarantee of quality or of intellectual vitality. Public funding can also cushion mediocrity and crudeness.”

Berold stresses the need for more diversity of public funding, while Bila says the government needs to take independent publishers seriously: “We constitute the core of authentic South African publishing. Unlike the multinational publishers, we are committed to what we produce, even though we do it in small quantities and with limited resources. The government must buy books from us, as they do with big publishers, and get those books into public spaces such as schools and libraries.”

Apart from finances, however, another problem is reader apathy, says Mashego, and Horwitz points out that “the laziness of writers to support the literary journals that support them is peculiar but actually quite reflective of the egoism that much art making generates”.

Media recognition, of lack thereof, is an issue for many independent publishers. While Berold feels Deep South does receive some attention in the media, it is “a little, not enough”. Bila says that most newspapers do not value book reviews and as a result “little is known about new South African writing”.

Mashego is more direct: “The media are gunning for free review copies and champagne at book launches while very few or any of them can write a review. Especially black journalists - very few of them can write a review. The black media is obsessed with gossip journalism to that extent that book reviewing is not their forte.”

Despite all the obstacles, though, independent publishers in SA remain committed to their work and, most importantly, believe in what they are doing.

“You can publish what you like,” Higgs says, “what you are passionate about, what moves you, what interests you. You don’t have to publish things that are politically correct or you feel compelled to by external market forces.”

For Kaganof a key benefit to authors involves “not having to deal with useless people who ‘staff’ the larger publishers”, while for Horwitz a benefit resides in the freedom to select, design and market in a manner which is “consistent with one’s world view and values”.

Bila likewise values the freedom from being guided by the dictates of a commercial market, and Berold says a key benefit is being accountable to nobody but his authors and his instincts.

“ I can do as I please,” says Mashego, “and mingle with readers without the stigma of being a CEO or publisher. It also helps me to think out of the box…the opportunity to innovate is what I see as the ultimate benefit. I wouldn’t trade it for the mainstream.”

(First published in Business Day's Books and Publishing supplement, November 2007)

Tuesday, 06 November 2007

Notice me - Cecilia Ferreira

An audacious painting by South African artist Cecilia Ferreira.

Monday, 05 November 2007

War Kills - Ralph Steadman

"The wearing of uniforms brings out tribal aspects of our personalities and gives licence to fear of self. Beneath the veil of defiance beats the throbbing process of decay."
Ralph Steadman, Gonzo: The Art

Thursday, 01 November 2007

Before the Mirror: surrealism in the 21st century

In 2001, the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London hosted the exhibition Surrealism - Desire Unbound. Focusing on the premise that desire was central to the surrealist vision of love, poetry and liberty, the exhibition displayed a comprehensive range of almost 300 paintings, sculptures, objects and documents stemming from the early pre-surrealist dada period through to relatively recent works of the 1970s.

While passing through the successive 13 rooms/domains of surrealist desire, one was initially introduced to works by Marcel Duchamp, Georgio di Chirico, Man Ray and Francis Picabia before plunging into the delirious surreality of artists such as René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, André Masson, Joan Miró, Aschille Gorky, Hans Bellmer, Meret Oppenheim, Toyen, Paul Delvaux, Roland Penrose, Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst. Also on exhibit were works by artists loosely associated with the movement such as Frida Kahlo and Leonor Fini.

The exhibition also displayed the recently rediscovered photographs of Claude Cahun, whose work was not exhibited during her lifetime.

Some of the works on display explicitly revealed the physical side of the surrealists' obsession with sexual desire: highly erotic collages from the Czech surrealist group plus the phallic costume created by Jean Bênoit for The execution of the will of the Marquis de Sade in 1959. Journeying deeper still into the 'darker side' of eroticism was Alberto Giacometti's sculpture Woman with her Throat Cut and Hans Bellmer's photographs of his artificial doll, some of which resembled a mutilated woman's body in erotically suggestive positions - and all this while recordings of gasps and sighs of women having sex were issued from speakers in the walls.

Documents on display included manuscript pages from André Breton's Nadja, as well as first editions of books by Breton, Paul Éluard, Valentine Penrose, Leonora Carrington, Benjamin Péret and René Char. There was a copy of the surrealist journal Medium from the 1950s. There were books of pornographic poetry by the poets illustrated with pornographic drawings by the artists.

Among documents from various 'ancestors' of surrealism was a letter in minute handwriting on blue paper from the Marquis de Sade to his wife. Sade's will was also on display alongside Bênoit's costume piece. There was also continuous screenings of Luis Buñuel's movie classics Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or, followed by Maya Deren's beautiful Meshes of the Afternoon.

Overhead projectors threw photographic images onto a large blank wall, punctuated by texts of poems by Louis Aragon or André Breton:

They tell me over there the beaches are black
With lava that's gone down to the sea
And stretch out at the foot of a huge peak smoking with snow
Under a second sun of wild canaries…
(André Breton, They tell me over there)

Walking away from the exhibition, though, I couldn't help being struck by some ironies. Firstly, that an exhibition devoted to one of the great revolutionary movements of the 20th century should be sponsored by a major international financial group, Morgan Stanley. Also that the exhibition should be swamped by overwhelming hoards of pretentious middle-class art farts that Breton and Co would have despised (or at least according to the myths). Another irony was that the organisers of the exhibition stated that surrealism was an art and literary movement that started in the 1920s and ended in the 1960s, when surrealism, or at least the surrealist spirit, is still alive and all around us.

But these ironies, I suppose, are inevitable. Over the decades corporate capitalism has made a point of being a 'patron of the arts', all in the cause of marketing. Whether the art is comprehensible to them is probably irrelevant. Morgan Stanley's funding of this exhibition is certainly rendered absurd by declaring in its sponsorship statement that surrealism challenged traditional approaches to art in the same manner that the financial group encourages its clients to challenge traditional approaches to managing their finances!

Much art - particularly modern art - has found its way into the corporate world of banking halls, offices and boardrooms. Around Johannesburg, for example, Rothko, Miro and Kandinsky appear to be favourites. If this develops into a widened exposure or appreciation of the artist, excellent, but generally the response is either one of ignorance or ridicule. Often such artworks are not even selected on their artistic merits, but on whether they fit into the colour schemes of the building. I once managed to get a reproduction of Miro's Blue II hanging in my office. It was accepted on the grounds that my employer's predominate corporate colour was blue. Staring at the painting often sent me into some beautiful reveries (which I considered more important than the work at hand), but the response of my colleagues was one of ridicule - you know, 'my five-year-old daughter could have done that!'

Morgan Stanley apparently owns many of the paintings on display in the exhibition, but whether this is a result of genuine art appreciation could be subject to debate. Some capitalist art collections have been created out of art appreciation, others out of appreciation of their current (and future) financial worth. And in these instances the revolutionary and subversive spirit of surrealism - surrealism as a means of liberation - is probably ignored. It is not surprising that the surrealist commitment to political revolution - and in particular the Paris group's (albeit temporary) alignment with the French Communist Party - was not referred to at the exhibition.

Then again, capitalism had been courting surrealism almost since the beginning - the collections of Peggy Guggenheim and Edward James, for example, started back in the 1930s. Dalí became capitalism's pet and he revelled in the opportunity to make mega dollars, hence Breton's dubbing him 'Avida Dollars' (an anagram on 'Salvador Dalí'). But it wasn't just the 'charlatan' Dalí. Man Ray hobnobbed with French aristocracy and Hollywood stars and made no bones about it. The US surrealist poet Charles Henri Ford also made a point of keeping in with the rich, mixing with the likes of Cecil Beaton and Edith Sitwell. Breton himself hung around Guggenheim's salon. And there was Aragon's love affair with the wealthy Nancy Cunard…

The surrealists were - and still are - mainly products of a bourgeois culture, so in a way it is hardly surprising that it is from this culture - against which they were/are rebelling - that they receive the most (however misunderstood) appreciation.

Yet surrealism has never been an art or literary movement (or worse still, a form of escapism). To my mind it is a permanent revolution aimed at the transformation of life, its principal weapons being magic, poetry (visual, verbal or written), eroticism and revolt. Backed up with an unyielding belief in the omnipotence of liberty, dreams and desire, surrealism supports the victory of the pleasure principle over the reality principle and wages an uncompromising war against a paltry existence based on enslavement, bigotry and sham, as well as the abuse of money and power by corporate capitalism, religion, military and state.

So when surrealism finds itself in the hands of the very establishment whose values it seeks to sweep away, it's like a joke gone wrong.

South African poet Sinclair Beiles, commenting on contemporary surrealist poetry, wrote: 'Most surrealist poetry became mannered and its quest for unusual relationships between words, and ideas, were set down at the expense of feelings and motives. The poems became beautiful seashells devoid of life.'

Surrealism looks into the mirror of the 21st century and sees - what? A marketing director signing off a sponsorship cheque?

(first published online on donga in 2002)

I never wanted to be a poet...

"I never wanted to be a poet.
I just wanted to be a human being.
Anyone who wants to be a poet is out of his mind.
Either you are one or you are not.
Most poets are not poets.
To be a real artist is a unique and valuable asset to this planet."

Jack Micheline, Sad for an unbrave world