Pravasan Pillay’s Tearoom Books has published the chapbook of the year.
There’s no escaping it.
The moment you see Gary Cummiskey’s face you start screaming
there is fire in the enema of art
he put it there
not yet free of the dream nor of the memory of when you came to me not wearing panties beneath your light summer dress
but the moment you got on top of me and you saw my face you started screaming
As far as South Africa is concerned a reason for Gary Cummiskey’s neglect may stem from the fact that he spent almost 20 years in Randburg, and by the time he returned to settle down in Sandton, the political situation had changed and so Cummiskey’s surrealist work seemed out of place. Thus Gary had become a marginalised figure as a result of both psychogeographical and cultural factors.
He writes in “European Writers” “Some people became poets after corresponding with European writers. I became a poet after sleeping on a razorblade.”
And this means that Gary is sharp.
He’s busy looking for a magic wand - no strings attached.
Another problem that may account for the relative obscurity of Gary’s work is the difficulty of placing it within the various ‘movement’ categorisations. While Romancing the Dead contains a number of poems dealing with the colonial city scene in Joburg, the rest of his work does not particularly reflect the social context in which it was created.
In the end it boils down to the “Painting”:
I am hungry and dirty. My feet stink. I want to brush my teeth.
However, it can also not be ignored that Cummiskey’s illness sometimes made him an extremely difficult person, and most publishers and editors were reluctant to deal with him. For this reason alone Pravasan Pillay must be commended. Despite there being no physical attraction Pillay liked Cummiskey as a friend.
Gary was aware of his outsider status, and openly declared that he did not wish to fit in with any particular group or category. But there is a difference between being an outsider and being marginalised to the point of neglect - and Cummiskey’s work is neglected. (Although Stephen Gray would probably not agree).
Romancing the Dead is a funeral ceremony and all Gary’s sleeping relatives sit on the floor of the bathroom around the bath where his corpse is laid. Once the sleepers have been given the pills to swallow when you left you took them out from your handbag and slipped them back on.
Some people become poets after sleeping with European writers.
Dye Hard Press is a small publisher in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 1994 it has published more than 20 titles, including work by Alan Finlay, Phillip Zhuwao, Arja Salafranca, Gus Ferguson, Kobus Moolman, Gail Dendy, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Khulile Nxumalo and Pravasan Pillay.
Dye Hard Press publications are distributed by Bacchus Books.
A collection of short stories by Pravasan Pillay. Available at select bookstores countrywide, estimated retail price R190. Also available directly from the publisher. Email email@example.com to order.
Recent title from Modjaji Books and Dye Hard Press
Beyond Touch is Arja Salafranca's third poetry collection and was published in collaboration with Modjaji Books in May 2015. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Title from Dye Hard Press
A revised and expanded edition of Who was Sinclair Beiles?, edited by Gary Cummiskey and Eva Kowalska. Available directly from the publisher for R160, including postage (South Africa).
Title from Dye Hard Press
Off-ramp, Gary Cummiskey's debut collection of short fiction. Cost is R150, including postage, directly from the publisher.
The Secret Hour, Dye Hard Press, Johannesburg,1994 Lost in a World, Dye Hard Press, 1994 Conspiracies of the Interior, Dye Hard Press, 1994 Visitations, Dye Hard Press, 1995 River of Dreams, Dye Hard Press, 1995 City, Sun Belly Press, Johannesburg, 1995 When Apollinaire Died, Firfield Press, Cape Town, 1996 Head(with Roy Blumenthal), Dye Hard Press, 1998 Reigning Gloves, Dye Hard Press, 2000 Bog Docks, Dye Hard Press, 2005 April in the Moon-Sun, Dye Hard Press, 2006 Today is their Creator, Dye Hard Press, 2008 Who was Sinclair Beiles? (co-edited with Eva Kowalska), Dye Hard Press, 2009 and 2015 Romancing the Dead, Tearoom Books, Durban, 2009 Sky Dreaming, Graffiti Kolkata, India, 2011
I Remain Indoors, Tearoom Books, Stockholm, 2013
Off-ramp, Dye Hard Press, 2013
Don't Stop Until Incinerated, Tearoom Books, Stockholm, 2016
In Naked Field, Concrete Meat Press, Leicester, England, 2019
South African-based or Related Literary Websites and Blogs