Valedictory in a Taxi Cruising Slowly

Beat Hotel plaque installed in 2009

Plaque installed in 2009 at 9 rue Gît-le-Coeur, Paris.

'The Naked Lunch' [published by the Olympia Press, 1959]

Olympia Press, 1959

Two Cities Editions, 1960

















“Here are Sinclair’s ‘Last Words,’ written in Paris long before he would have been aware of any pressing need to devise valedictory.” — HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS, from a tribute to Sinclair Beiles, in BONE HEBREW, a collection of Beiles’s writings published in 2013, in a limited edition, by Cold Turkey Press.


Let me utter my last words in a taxi cruising slowly
Through the beautiful posies of neon signs.
Let someone else die in my room on a turned mattress
So it doesn’t show stains. Let him savour the smell of it.
The smell of old lemons and let his last moments
Be guillotined by badly played guitars in other rooms.
In readiness I have a shirt with the black ring scrubbed off
The collar, and a suit which was shiny before I sandpapered it.
And now I must find my last words:
Oscar Wilde looked at the wallpaper
and said: “I knew I had to go first.” Goethe screamed, “Let there be light!”
Chekov said, “How stupid is it for me to die.”
What can I say to the taxi driver which is memorable enough.
I cannot think.
I am too overcome by the outrages perpetrated against me.
Perhaps I should get the taxi driver to cruise even more slowly
So I can pick up a whore and die in her room
With a beautiful zizzard of neon flashing through the window.
Let her invent my last words with all her experience.

I spoke to the curator of the Beat Generation show about Sinclair and complained to Jean-Jacques Lebel [who arranged the plaque] as well, but there is prejudice against him for being South African and also for his mental problems. I also complained to the Beat Hotel management!! It is infuriating. — LILIANE LIJN, from an email message to Gerard Bellaart

Is it possible to be a poet without mental problems? … poor Paul Celan, poor George Trakl … I could plague you with a list that will undo your screen. Actually Lebel could easily amend the plaque situation at the Beat Hotel. — GERARD BELLAART, from an email message to Straight Up


Dear Jan,

Conscience dictates I offer another correction … It was not JJ Lebel who arranged the plaque. I allowed him and Barry Miles the honour of unveiling it on the day, but it was Your Reporter who wrote the text and worked with Madame Odillard at the Hotel to put it up. So I’m afraid I was to blame for omitting Sinclair’s name. All the more reason for me to set the record straight in the new MINUTES TO GO . . . Actually, I will be contacting the hotel about [email protected] in 2020 so you never know we maybe could add a Postscript — OLIVER HARRIS

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One Response to Valedictory in a Taxi Cruising Slowly

    1. Dear Editors — Many thanks for posting this. I’ve received some comments which I’d like to share here, too, including my replies. Best to you all at IT. — Jan Herman

      Cy Lester says:
      This seems to be working out well for Sinclair – as it should for the First Man in Space. That’s how he understood what Burroughs was doing and could fit together NAKED LUNCH. Sinclair should always be flying above it all.

      My reply:
      For those unaware of the “first man in space” reference, have a quick look here: (Beiles was not a “beatnik,” though, as that article claims. Also, despite his connections to the Beat Hotel, and to Burroughs et al, he did not consider himself a “beat poet” either. )

      For interested readers, this article gives a more accurate view of him. Furthermore, let’s remember what Nanos Valaoritis said about him, as quoted on the cover of BONE HEBREW:

      “I think the time has come to give Sinclair Beiles serious consideration as a very special case, not unlike Artaud, whose madness he feared, or even writers like Blanchot and Bataille, whose special experiences begin to be recognized as capital. One can even characterize him as a post-modern author, thanks to the ironical distance of his tone. For there is a definite tone to his poetry, an unmistakable and recognizable style that belongs to him exclusively. Perhaps it is because of this that he has always been treated as an alien, a stranger, an intruder, which all important poets have been in their own time.”

      As to the mental problems, this is what Heathcote Williams had to say:
      “… the sad, mad and bruised old mind that was Sinclair Beiles was at root the mind of a natural ecstatic, a luftmensch, of the kind that society is always inclined to punish for one reason or another, which is why unreason is sometimes such an attractive escape route, along with the trickster’s madness . . . though it is tempting to think that Sinclair was perhaps also privately haunted by some dark demons buried deep in his DNA, the dybbuks and golems of the shtelt which no one would ever be able to do anything about (and Sinclair must certainly have tried — he ran through psychiatrists like boxes of Kleenex”).

      Gary Lee-Nova says:
      Thank you for opening up this Pandora’s Boxing match for us eager readers. I’ve always been puzzled by the conspicuous absence of Sinclair’s Name on the Beat Hotel Plaque but not oblivious to the role he played with MINUTES TO GO. Collaborations are interesting social situation soups to sip and swim in. But typically, when the credits roll, names of major players are often omitted. Biases and rumour mills are sometimes the causal reasons for the omissions. This seems to be the case with Sinclair’s name and The Plaque in Paris. Perhaps Professor Harris can deliver on that possibility of a postscript.

      Comment by Jan Herman on 22 August, 2018 at 1:30 pm

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