Sinclair Beiles, South Africa's own Beat poet, believes that when Paul Getty bought a first-edition Chaucer and Harry Oppenheimer bought the manuscript of Cry, The Beloved Country for large sums, such purchases marked a growing interest in the commercial exchange of literary memorabilia.
Beiles has just been invited to submit items to be included in a Sotheby's New York auction of Beat poets' original renderings and associated objects. The sale is scheduled for October 6 and according to Beiles is likely to signal the upsurge of a spate of millenial interest in the authors of the 20th century. "I think people are getting tired of bidding for furntiture," ventures Beiles.
Apparently not all that appreciated in South Africa, land of Beiles's birth and education at King Edward high school and Wits university, he is better known and recognised for his work in Europe where he associated with such notables as William Burroughs, Harold Norse and Allen Ginsberg.
Indeed, it is Bill Morgan, the archvist of the Allen Ginsberg Trust, who has invited Beiles to submit items for sale in association with other well-known Beat poets. Beiles observes that while his work features in the "Whitney Museum's handsome book on the Beats", his contribution has been ignored by the compilers of A Century of South African Poetry.
Among the items Beiles is submitting is his critically acclaimed Sacred Fix, published by Cold Turkey Press, Rotterdam, 1975. Also to appear is his current favourite, Springtime at Raubenheimer's, a limited edition of short, humorous poems published last November.
Sotheby's has placed a $1 000 reserve on each lot and Beiles is submitting a number hopefully calculated to alleviate the cliched plight of the impecunious poet.
Beiles asserts that it is high time poetry was recognised as offering some genuine financial worth.
(Published in The Sunday Independent, July 25 1999)