Leonard Cohen, who is not given to easy praise, has called Sinclair Beiles “one of the great poets of the century.” Meaning the 20th century — they met back in the early 1960s on the Greek island of Hydra. Was Cohen being uncharacteristically hyperbolic? Well, William S. Burroughs, also not given to easy praise, once wrote:
probing article-cum-interview. But Beiles was something of a mystery even to those who knew and marveled at him.
Heathcote Williams writes in an unforgettable essay, “Sinclair Beiles: The first poet in space”:
Despite Burroughs’ impressive recommendation Sinclair Beiles often fell asleep during his own poetry readings thanks to a hefty diet of prescription drugs which Sinclair would carry around in a large plastic bag and which were always placed beside him on-stage so as to be within easy reach. This was a pity since Sinclair’s poems, as Burroughs had attested, were worth listening to, once he could be aroused.
Apparently, the better you knew Beiles the more you marveled. Williams continues:
When I first met Sinclair he was living in Paris with a Creole woman who had filed down teeth ending in needle-sharp points. Early on in his life Sinclair would appear like an alert wagtail, always hopping about possessed by new ideas: some new artist he’d met — an exiled Romanian covered in etching ink in a recondite atelier in the Marais whose poems were, in Sinclair’s view, “better than Blake”; Serbian glass-blowers who made crystal balls that were “better than television”; artists in light who would “open up your Third Eye till you go completely blind and mad but you won’t mind”. He had an eye for the exotic; there was a transgendered Marxist performance artist from Namibia who would recite the Communist Manifesto in Xhosa.
I can’t tell whether I’m cynical or optimistic — whether there is something out there organising a life of pleasure or pain for us. It’s beyond my scope. Whatever happens is meat for my poetry. I record what’s happening. I don’t care why. I haven’t been able to discern any pattern to my existence. I don’t hunger after being part of a total harmony.