Saturday, 12 September 2009

Berold on Beiles

Poet Robert Berold writes about Who Was Sinclair Beiles?:

I thought the Beiles book was excellent - nice balance of interviews and essays, thorough bibliography, well edited, good design, readable and inviting. And as far as I know the first non-academic book about poetry to appear in South Africa for years (ever?). Definitely not a booklet as Stephen Gray called it in his M&G non-review. I wish all our poets got such attentive treatment.

It's sad that Beiles's work and his mental state went kind of downhill. But he did write some good poems - the best of them of full of startling images, going off on tangents in interesting ways. An aesthetic that no other South African was doing. And he wrote about his madness with courage and humour.

I had a few meetings with him, and like everyone else, had to deal with his erratic attitude (which started with his proclaiming me a great poet and degenerated over time to the death threat 'by spells' quoted in Dawie Malan's essay).

Once when I was visiting him, he said "Would you like a suitcase?" and produced a very battered very heavy leather suitcase. Which my computer monitor now sits on - so I live with a reminder of Beiles every day.

Perhaps in his later years, his real creation was a character called Sinclair Beiles. But I hope Dye Hard will prove there was also a poet called Sinclair Beiles by publishing a 'best of' selection.

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