Professor Dan Wylie of the Rhodes University English Department launched his book Intimate Lightning: Sydney Clouts, Poet, on Sunday afternoon at Wordfest in Makhanda.
Wylie also introduced another of his books on Clouts (Seahorn Messiah: Sydney Clouts, The Poems), which he described as a complementary book to Intimate Lightning. Wylie went on to explain that Seahorn Messiah is as the first complete collection of Clouts’ poetry, bringing together pieces which were either previously published or still in manuscript form years after his passing.
The one known publication of his poems is the thin 1984 Collected Poems, published posthumously by his family in that year. Seahorn Messiah is Wylie’s project consisting of an updated and larger compilation of Clouts’ poems. Taking the audience through this history, Wylie said of the book:
“It is the most complete collection of the slender but deeply important oeuvre of an almost-forgotten poet; and it has been designed as a companion volume to [my] study of Clouts’ work, in Intimate Lightning: Sydney Clouts, Poet”
Seahorn Messiah is the collective work of Professor Wylie and Mrs Marge Clouts, widow of Sydney Clouts.
Outlining his choice for the study of the Clouts’ poetry, Wylie spoke of the discursive value Clouts’ work adds to areas of local and global interest:
“… [his] poetry raises fascinating and important issues for South African literature; in particular the relationship between the metaphysical poetry and imperative local politics… and between South African poetry and global political dynamics.”
It is however his wish to remember and honour the long neglected poet that motivated the writing and compilation of these books. Wylie hopes that readers will see that Clouts was a true and necessary intellectual.