Friday, December 27, 2013


Name? Gary Cummiskey

Age? 50.

Location? Johannesburg, South Africa.

How long have you been writing? I wrote my first short story, about Mary, Queen of Scots, when I was 11. I wrote my first poem, influenced by Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, aged 14 – it was about a dying albatross. I have been writing ever since.

Do you have a specific writing style? Not really, but my main influences have been the surrealists and the Beats. These influences probably play a role in my approach to writing, rather than on style. Besides, as Proust said: “Style is a matter of vision, not technique.” 

Do you write as a career? No, I work as a sub-editor.

Do you write full-time? No, but I wish I was financially independent so I could do so.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer? To date, I would say my greatest accomplishment was having the perseverance to write enough short stories to put Off-ramp together. After years of writing poetry and publishing chapbooks of poetry, working on a 140-page collection of short stories was quite different, and a bigger challenge.

What is your ultimate goal as a writer? To leave some evidence of my passing through?

What is your greatest challenge as a writer? Finding the time to write.

What projects of yours have been recently published? My two most recent publications are I Remain Indoors, an e-chapbook of free-form haiku, published by Tearoom Books, and Off-ramp, a collection of short stories, published by Dye Hard Press.

What are you currently working on and what inspired this work? I am not working on anything.

       How often do you write? When I have time. Sometimes I go months without        writing.

       How do you react to rejections? They are not something I lose sleep over.

How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication? I am chuffed as hell, and honoured.

What is your best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer? Just laugh and remind yourself that even this entire century will one day be little more than a footnote in a history textbook.

       What is your favorite book? I have so many favourite books, it is impossible to give the              name of only one. And even then the list changes from time to time. However, one book I return to again and again is the correspondence between Henry Miller and Lawrence     Durrell.

Who is your favorite author? Ditto, but some names that immediately come to mind:      Henry Miller, Anäis Nin, William Burroughs, Jeff Nuttall, Jack Kerouac, Herman Hesse, Christopher Isherwood, Yukio Mishima, Boris Vian and Rene Crevel. Poets: Claude Pelieu, Bob Kaufman, Gregory Corso, Sinclair Beiles, Ira Cohen, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Antonin Artaud, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, Henri Michaux, Tristan Tzara, Frank O’Hara, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lautreamont, Baudelaire, Lorca, the Liverpool poets, Seitlhamo Motsapi – these are just off the top of my head, the list is endless.      

       What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer? To succumb to the temptation of    seeking to please.   

       What is your favorite word? Dream.

       What makes you laugh? Watching politicians.
       What makes you cry? Watching politicians.

What is your preferred drink while you write? I don’t drink alcohol. I prefer listening to           music while I write, preferably classical or jazz.

What kind of wild animals do you have in South Africa? Well, for a start we have the big five – elephants, rhino, lions, leopards and Cape buffalo. Rhino are being poached all the time for their horns – shocking. Their numbers have disseminated considerably. In 2013           
so far 946 rhino have been poached –almost 1,000 in one year! There is a lion park just half an hour’s drive away from my home.

Beach or Mountains? Beach.

Cats or Dogs? Cats.

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles.

Jimi Hendrix or Frank Sinatra? Hendrix.

Shakespeare or Bukowski? Both.

What is Dye Hard Press? Dye Hard Press is a small, home publishing venture that I started in 1994. Dye Hard mainly publishes South African poetry. Dye Hard Press authors include Khulile Nxumalo, Alan Finlay, Philip Zhuwao (from Zimbabwe), Arja Salafranca, Kobus Moolman, Gus Ferguson and Allan Kolski Horwitz.  

How many titles have you published? Since 1994, on and off, Dye Hard Press has published about 30 titles  ‒  poetry, fiction, drama and nonfiction.

Have you ever published or edited poetry journals? Yes. In the mid ‘90s I put out four issues of a poetry journal called Atio. In 2002 I started up a literary journal of poetry and prose called Green Dragon, this ran to six issues. The seventh issue was supposed to be a short fiction special but it grew into a big anthology in its own right called The Edge of Things, which was edited by Arja Salafranca. For three years, starting 2014, I will be the editor of New Coin, which is one of South Africa’s oldest literary journals. New Coin is owned by the Institute for the Study of English in Africa, in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape.

Is Dye Hard Press publishing anything in 2014? During the next three years while I am editing New Coin, Dye Hard Press will be taking a bit of a back seat, and I will not be taking on new projects. However, Dye Hard Press is collaborating with Modjaji Books in Cape Town to publish Arja Salafranca’s new poetry collection, Indigo Streets, in March, and a revised, expanded edition of Who was Sinclair Beiles? is planned for May. Who was Sinclair Beiles? is a collection of writings about the South African Beat poet who had collaborated with William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Gregory Corso on the book of cut-ups Minutes to Go.  It was originally published in 2011 and edited by Eva Kowalska and myself.

      Personal website/blog:

Twitter profile:@GaryCummiskey

Other page(s) or profile(s):

      Books for sale and/or press: Check out in-print Dye Hard Press titles on


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