Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beiles collection published in USA, by Percy Baneshik

The poet most markedly without honour in his own country, Sinclair Beiles, has once again demonstrated that, as prophets go, he is distinctly not without honour in the outer world.

This time the recognition comes in the shape of a new book, published by Lapis Press in Venice, California, rounding up a selection of his verses over several decades.

Though the volume bears a somewhat uninspiring title, A South African Abroad, it comes with a resounding accolade from the publishers, who happen to be of a particularly selective frame of mind in their publishing. They specialise in publishing contemporary poetry by leading poets of the day.

The foreward to the book is contributed by Nanos Valaoritis, professor of world literature at San Francisco State University.

Why the rather flat title? Certainly the poetry is a reflection of Beiles's sojourns abroad in countries ranging from Greece to Spain, Italy, Tangier and a few other areas of reflective wanderering. But the title is a sort of poetic inversion.

In Valaoritis's lengthy introduction, the inversion becomes clear."Sinclair", says Valaoritis, "takes the South African experience as a springboard to symbolise all oppression, all persecution, all bad taste,all flattening-out uniformity, and all monsterous brain-washing..."

The professor categorises the Johannesburg poet as "an internal exile in South Africa", speaking of  "the taste of euphoric exile in all of his poems" which derive from his wanderings, "always de passage from one place to another".

Valaoritis cites Beiles's "political moments", declaring downrightly "I wouldn't say Sinclair is a hero like Breytenbach... but he is, in his best moments, as good a poet..."

In light of this assessment, appearance of the collection in California strikes a special note. It underscores the fact that, strangely, Beiles has never been included in an anthology of South African poetry.

He has won prizes like the Ingrid Jonker Memorial Award, the William Plomer Award and the Lord Byron Award, a prize handed out by the French Friends of Lord Byron Poetry Society, which Beiles won for his 1976 collection, Sacred Fix. Other recipients of this award have been TS Eliot and Robert Graves.

But election to a locally compiled anthology of poetry has eluded him.

He has wondered about this, pointing out that publication in local anthologies is the most important way of getting known by students, who are the main readers of poetry.

The new collection, A South African Abroad, culled from volumes Beiles has brought out in South Africa over the years ... will be published by Lapis Press...Priced in the US  at $12,95 (approx R33). It will be avaulable in bookstores in South Africa soon.

(Published in The Star, February 14, 1991)

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