Guy Butler (poet)
|Born||21 January 1918
Cradock, Eastern Cape, South Africa
|Died||26 April 2001 (aged 83)
Grahamstown, South Africa
He was born and educated in the Eastern Cape town of Cradock. He attended Rhodes University and received his MA in 1938. After marrying Jean Satchwell in 1940 he left South Africa to fight in the Second World War. After the war, he read English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford University, graduating in 1947. He returned to South Africa, lecturing in English at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1951, he returned to Rhodes University in Grahamstown to take up a post as Senior Lecturer, and a year later was made Professor and Head of English. He remained there until his retirement in 1987, when he was appointed Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Fellow. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Natal, the University of the Witwatersrand and Rhodes University.
Butler promoted the culture of English-speaking South Africans, which led to the charge of separatism from some critics, although he argued for integration rather than exclusivity. He was influential in achieving the recognition of South African English Literature as an accepted discipline. In his poetry he strove for the synthesis of European and African elements into a single voice.
Butler's childhood is depicted in his autobiography, Karoo Morning (1977). Bursting World (1983) continues with an account of his student years and his experiences during World War II, in North Africa and Italy. Stranger to Europe (1952), his first poetry collection, contains fine war poems. Selected Poems appeared in 1975, updated with additional poems in 1989. Pilgrimage to Dias Cross (1987) is a long meditation on racial conflict, incorporating representative voices from various groups, and ending with a prayer for unity. Butler's plays include Richard Gush of Salem (1982) and Demea (1990). A Local Habitation (1991) continues his autobiography up to 1990. A collection of academic writings, Essays and Lectures: 1949-1991, was published in 1994.
His sister, Dorothy Eyre Murray (née Butler), was also a poet.
His plays include the following:
- The Dam
- The Dove Returns
- Richard Gush of Salem
- Take Root or Die
- Cape Charade
- Kaatjie Kekkelbek
His books of poetry include:
- Stranger to Europe
- South of the Zambezi
- Selected Poems
- Songs and Ballads
- Oxford Book of South African Verse (1959)
His autobiographical books are:
- Karoo Morning
- Bursting World
- A Local Habitation
- Obituary, The Independent, 3 May 2001.
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