Poet: Sinclair Beiles
Publisher: Writers Forum, London
Size: 250 x 205 x 4 mm
Pages: 24, mimeographed, glued & taped
Cover art: Bob Cobbing
Sinclair Beiles was born in Kampala, Uganda in 1930, the only child of Jewish South African parents of Russian descent. The family moved back to Johannesburg when young Sinclair was six years old. There he studied at Wits University before starting a wandering existence in the early 1950s. Beiles travelled to New Zealand, Spain and Tangier, where he first met William Burroughs at Dutch Tony’s male brothel in 1954. Some five years later he ran into Burroughs again. This time in Paris, where Beiles worked as a writer and editor for Maurice Girodias’ notorious Olympia Press. Beiles secured Burroughs’ manuscript of Naked Lunch for his employer and guided the work to its publication in 1959. At the request of Burroughs Beiles took up lodging at the Beat Hotel the following year, where he co-authored the seminal cut-up pamphlet Minutes To Go with Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Brion Gysin. When the original Beat Hotel scene dissolved in the late 1960s, Beiles left Paris and travelled to Greece and England before finally returning to South Africa in the late 1970s.
Sinclair Beiles, who “ran through psychiatrists like boxes of Kleenex” according to Heathcote Williams, suffered from bouts of mental illness and was admitted to various institutions during his lifetime. Beiles himself maintained that his brain had become unhinged in 1962 after having been part of one of Takis’s sculptures, in which a powerful magnetic field had kept him suspended in mid-air while he proclaimed a poetic manifesto. Whatever the cause, Beiles’s fragile mental condition played an important part in his life, much of which was spent in institutions, and in his work, much of which was written under the influence of prescribed and unprescribed drugs. Beiles, the first poet in space, the madman who had nailed carrots to the car of a member of the Greek junta, died virtually unknown and penniless in Johannesburg in 2000.
The first edition of Universal Truths as revealed in white Tobacco Fumes was published in 1976 by Writers Forum, London, a small but renowned press started by Bob Cobbing, John Rowan and Jeff Nuttall in 1963. Bob Cobbing himself designed the cover for Sinclair Beiles’s edition, which contains 20 short poems and is dedicated to Beiles’s mother. The condition of this rare and sought-after publication is very good with only minor staining of the cover.