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Sinclair Beiles

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Sinclair Beiles
Sinclair Beiles circa 1998 in Johannesburg
Sinclair Beiles circa 1998 in Johannesburg
Kampala, Uganda
Died3 November 2000
Johannesburg, South Africa
OccupationPoet, writer
Literary movementBeat, postmodernism
Notable works‘’Ashes of Experience’’ (1969)
Notable awardsIngrid Jonker Prize

Sinclair Beiles (b. Kampala, Uganda, 1930–2000, Johannesburg) was a South African beat poet and editor for Maurice Girodias at the Olympia Press in Paris. He developed along with William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin the cut-up technique of writing poetry and literature. He won the 1969 Ingrid Jonker Prize for poetry for his collection, Ashes of Experience.[1]

Early life[edit]

Beiles was born in Uganda to Jewish South African parents of Russian descent.[2] The family returned to live in Johannesburg when he was six years old.[2] He graduated with a BA from the University of the Witwatersrand, having majored in Anthropology.[2]


Beiles was involved with American beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Brion Gysin, and Burroughs at the legendary Beat Hotel in Paris. The photographer Harold Chapman recorded this period in his book The Beat Hotel (Gris Banal, 1984). He co-authored Minutes to Go with Burroughs, Gysin and Corso (Two Cities Editions, 1960). Beiles helped edit Burroughs' Naked Lunch.

He worked with the Greek artist Takis and read his magnetic manifesto -- "I am a sculpture... I would like to see all nuclear bombs on Earth turned into sculptures"—in 1960 in Paris at the Iris Clert Gallery. At this event he was famously suspended in mid-air by a magnetic field from a powerful magnet in a sculpture developed by Takis. Beiles attributed his subsequent mental instability to this experience even though he insisted that Takis provide him with a helmet to protect his head from the magnetic field.

Beiles wandered through Europe, including a spell in London and settled in the Greek islands during the 1970s. He fought frequent bouts of depression, mental illness and drug addiction.

In later life he returned to South Africa and was associated with the Johannesburg-based Gallery III [1] group of poets, writers, composers and performance artists. He and the South African columnist and playwright Ian Fraser formed a friendship which lasted many years. The poet had a burst of writing activity from 1991 to 2000, publishing a large number of poetry collections, including A South African Abroad (Lapis Press, 1991). He died in relative poverty.

The independent filmmaker Anton Kotze made a short film called "Sacred Fix" (26 minutes, South Africa, 1997), which is a documentary portrait of Sinclair Beiles.

A collection of writings about Sinclair Beiles called Who was Sinclair Beiles? was published by Dye Hard Press, Johannesburg, in 2009, co-edited by Gary Cummiskey and Eva Kowalska.

Works by Sinclair Beiles[edit]

  • (S. B. as) Wu Wu Ming: Houses of Joy. Olympia Press, Paris, 1959.
  • S. B., William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Gregory Corso: Minutes To Go. Two Cities Editions, Paris 1960
  • Ashes of Experience. Wurm, 1969
  • Deliria. Cold Turkey Press, Rotterdam 1971. Edited by Gerard Bellaart.
  • Tales: Poems. Gryphon Poets, 1972
  • Sacred Fix. Cold Turkey Press, Rotterdam, 1975
  • Universal Truths as Revealed in White Tobacco Fumes. Writers Forum, London. 1976.
  • Ballets, 1978
  • Dowsings, 1980
  • Poems Under Suspicion, Poems On Bits Of Paper (with Marta Proctor) 1982
  • The Crucifixion, Two Cities, 1984
  • A South African Abroad, Lapis Press, 1991
  • On-Stage, Limited Editions, 1994
  • Aardvark City, or Hieronymous Hotel, Limited Editions, 1994
  • Khakiweeds, Limited Editions, 1995
  • Deliria. Small Spaces Press, 1995. First edition: Cold Turkey Press, Rotterdam, 1971.
  • Yeoville: Poems, Nugget Press, 1996
  • Sugar, Nugget Press, 1996
  • Plays (Harlem King of the Negroes; My Brother Frederico; Chopin in Majorca), Nugget Press, 1996
  • The Greek Plays (Electra; Punch and Judy; Genesis; Mme Sausolito), Nugget Press 1996
  • 3 Plays (Picasso by Max Jacob; Suzanne Valedon; Colette), Nugget Press, 1996
  • The Golden Years, Nugget Press, 1997
  • Nagmaal, Nugget Press, 1997
  • Bicycle Tales, Nugget Press, 1997
  • Springtime at Raubenheimers, Nugget Press, 1998
  • Women, Nugget Press 2000
  • A Jew Takes A Look At Guatemala, Nugget Press, 2000
  • The Idiot's Voice, Cold Turkey Press 2012
  • Bone Hebrew, Cold Turkey Press 2013

Personal life[edit]

Beiles had bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression and this informed his work.[2]

Beiles returned to South Africa in the 1970s and later married the poet, Marta Proctor.[3] The couple lived together in Yeoville, then a bohemian neighbourhood of artists, filmmakers and writers.[4][5]

He died in Johannesburg General Hospital on 3 November 2000 at the age of 70.[1] He was buried at West Park Cemetery on 7 November.[1]


  1. ^ a b c The passing of a poet Mail & Guardian. 10 November 2000
  2. ^ a b c d 1 Playing Around at Being a Poet - Sinclair Beiles and the Problem of Context University of the Witwatersrand. Retrieved on 4 June 2024
  3. ^ Sinclair Beiles Papers (1970 - 2011) (Mss Acc 143) UNISA. 22 February 2012
  4. ^ The Rockey road to freedom: An oasis in the madness Mail & Guardian. 24 December 2023
  5. ^ Sinclair Beiles Rhodes University. June 2007

External links[edit]

  • Beat Bits: [2]
  • The Beat Hotel, Barry Miles, ISBN 1-903809-14-2
  • Beat Hotel Tribute: [3]
  • Beiles article at Empty Mirror- ¨Sinclair Beiles: A Man Apart¨: [4]
  • Harold Chapman Beat Hotel photos: [5]
  • James de Villiers & Gallery III [6]
  • Photo Of Gallery III [7]
  • Poetry Links: [8]