Monday, August 31, 2009

Aryan Kaganof Reviews Who Was Sinclair Beiles? by Gary Cummiskey and Eva Kowalska

Eventually one has to love Gary Cummiskey. He does not give up. He’s the kind of irascible soul that always draws trouble. Something about his pugnacious nature attracts difficulties. If it can go wrong at a printer it will. Twice. Gary’s often stuck in traffic. The waiter dusts more flies into his soup. But unlike most people you’ve ever met who share this streak of disaster-attraction - Cummiskey hasn’t got it in him to throw in the towel. You would have thought after years of publishing small press editions to little or no acclaim from the precarious South African literature “establishment” that Gary would see the light and stop bothering. Thank the gods he’s not that sort of bloke. Gary persists. His persistency is the stuff of local literary legend.

Green Dragon 6 is the best edition of his literary journal to date. And this volume about the late Yeoville Beat poet Sinclair Beiles is worth its weight in genetically modified stem cells. It keeps Beiles alive. A collection of essays by the likes of Alan Finlay, Fred Devries, co-editor Eva Kowalska and Gary himself, the book sheds shards of splintered, diffused and hazy light on the figure of Beiles whose reputation is based largely on memories of his surly frame sitting truculently outside coffee society in Rocky street, chain smoking irritably - has anyone ever read any of his poems?

In Yeoville in 1994 to film Nice To Meet You, Please Don’t Rape Me I was introduced to Beiles by my co-screenwriter Peter J. Morris, himself an equally taciturn, sour-bellied type. The two of them found things to grumble about. It was impossible for me to talk to Beiles. He just seemed too far gone in a vinegary disposition exacerbated by the brutal disappointment of never having ‘made it’ (whatever that means to a poet). But this volume opens the man up. Dawie Malan’s exquisite essay “the trouble with sinclair beiles” resuscitates the poet, gives him a fragile, vulnerable soul - and reveals librarian Dawie to be one of our most sensitive writers.

This book is essential. One day somebody will be collating a set of essays asking the question “Who Is Gary Cummiskey?” He deserves better. He deserves to be lionised now.

Aryan Kaganof

ISBN: 978-0-620-42792-0
Available from

First published on Kagablog