S. Anai Kelueljang- Poetry and Imprisonment

The file I covered this week on the Sudanese poet, Sirr Anai Kelueljang, contained a mixed set of correspondence relating to the publication of his collection, The Myth of Freedom, in 1985 by New Beacon Books. In a letter dated 12 Oct 1982, John La Rose praised his work for its “impressive directness and forthrightness” and went on to comment that “The rhythms, at times, read with an interesting awkwardness. I suspect they work from sounds in Dinka language mythology and experience". Much of the remaining correspondence relates to administrative details, such as requests for a black and white photograph for the cover of the book, and discussion of royalties.

It was surprising then to come across an invitation to La Rose from the Sudanese Support Group dated 3 Sep 1984, inviting him to a meeting for those concerned with the crisis in the Sudan. Included in the letter was a petition stating: " We the undersigned strongly protest against the detainment without charge and continuing imprisonment of the Sudanese Liberation poet SIRR ANAI KELUELJANG and more than 50 others at Kober Prison, Khartoum”. The letters sent over the next months that were contained in the file were requests to print Keleuljang’s work in publications which were related to censorship or prisoner writers; ‘International Pen : Writers in Prison Committee’ promised to let New Beacon Books know of any efforts made on Keleuljang's behalf.

Happily, the final piece of correspondence in the file was a handwritten note to Kelueljang, dated 17 April 1987,  enclosing a ticket for his return trip flight from London to New York, with the promise to meet him at JFK airport.