Dennis Brutus Biography
(1924– ), Sirens, Knuckles, Boots, Letters to Martha, Poems from Algiers, China Poems
South African poet, teacher, and political activist, born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, educated at Fort Hare University College, and the University of Witwatersrand, where his studies were cut short by arrest in 1963 for activities against racialism in South African sport. He was frequently in prison or under house arrest for the next few years and finally left South Africa in 1966. He has served as Director of the World Campaign for the Release of South African prisoners, and President of the South African Non-Racial Open Competition for Olympic Sports, in which capacity he was largely responsible for the exclusion of South Africa from the Olympic Games. His first collection, Sirens, Knuckles, Boots (1963), published in Nigeria, when Brutus was in prison, is charged with erotic tension and political protest. Brutus characterizes himself as a quixotic troubadour in perhaps his best-known poem, an untitled Petrarcan sonnet, the emphasis being on his sense of danger, both personal and political. Letters to Martha (1968) is addressed to his sister-in-law, and so titled because as a banned writer in South Africa his poems could only be published as ‘letters’ from prison. Brutus's visits to Algeria and China resulted in Poems from Algiers and China Poems, both published in 1970. A Simple Lust (1973) collects poems from previous volumes, and others previously unpublished. Later collections include Strains (1975) and Stubborn Hope (1978).
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