Sydney Clouts’s poetry: Looking inwards, looking outwards
Keywords:Sydney Clouts, Dan Wylie, sensory perception, human interaction, South African poetry in the 1960s
Intimate Lightning, by Dan Wylie, presents a detailed account and evaluation of Sydney Clouts’s poetry as phenomenologically driven: a poetry that invites readers to look inwards to the “speck and the fleck” of things in the natural world. At the same time, Wylie posits that Clouts is the finest poet of his generation in South Africa of the 1960s. In this article, I acknowledge Wylie’s engagement with the poetry while I question whether the somewhat relentless focus inwards is not too neglectful of those poems in which Clouts looks outwards to human interaction in the world. Such poems of abbreviated narrative, some of which I analyse in the course of my argument, suggest that looking outwards is necessary, at least, to consider Wylie’s claim that Clouts’s poetry is yet to receive its wider and just recognition. Given that Wylie offers little, if any, substantiation of Clouts’s standing as a poet among his peers, I move to a ‘summary’ perspective on Clouts in relation to what, I contend, is a rich and various poetry scene in 1960s South Africa. This leads me to the conclusion that the question of whether Clouts is the finest poet of his generation is not perhaps the question best pursued in Intimate Lightning. Where Wylie’s study succeeds is in reminding us that Clouts is a poet quite unlike any other we will encounter.
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