Intimate Lightning is the first book-length study of a poet who, though still frequently anthologised, has fallen into some obscurity.
Yet Sydney Clouts (1926-1981) was acknowledged by many during his lifetime as the strongest poet of his generation, albeit a difficult and elusive one.
His Cape Town-inspired poetry fizzes with energy, an adventurous vivacity of image, a capacity for delight, an authentic humility, yet an authoritative sense of cerebral depth.
Reading Clouts attentively is still both a poetic delight and a heady intellectual challenge. This study is biographically-framed, but is centrally an appreciation of the poetry: "The work is the thing!" Clouts himself urged.
The exploration is supported by interviews with family, friends and colleagues, but draws most importantly on archival sources: his letters, notebooks, and some 1700 pages of drafts that illuminate his methods.
It unpacks his essential themes, follows up his wide and eclectic reading, explores his relation to the troubled politics of the apartheid era, and offers an explanation of the poetry's philosophical underpinnings.
Intimate Lightning finally pays proper attention to a man who devoted himself unremittingly to poetry.