Patel, Essop 1943-

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PATEL, Essop 1943-


Born 1943, in Germiston, South Africa; married; children: two. Education: J.D. (with honors); University of the Witwatersrand, L.L.B.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ravan Press, P.O. Box 32484, Braamfontein 2017 Johannesburg, South Africa.


Attorney, justice, and poet. Worked in London, England, c. 1962; practicing attorney in Johannesburg, South Africa.



They Come at Dawn, BLAC (Athlone, South Africa), 1980.

Fragments in the Sun, Afrika Cultural Centre (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1985.

The Bullet and the Bronze Lady, Skotaville Publishers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1987.

Contributor of poetry to Staffrider, Ophir, Classic, and other periodicals.


(Editor) Nat Nakasa, The World of Nat Nakasa, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1985, 2nd edition, 1995.

(Editor) Can Themba, The World of Can Themba: Selected Writings, Ravan Press (Braamfontein, South Africa), 1985.

(Editor, with Tim Couzens) The Return of the Amasi Bird: Black South African Poetry, 1891-1981, Ravan Press (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1982.

(With Bhekizizwe Peterson and Benjy Francis) The Mountain of Volcano (performance piece), produced in London, England, 1985.

(Editor, with Chris Watters) Human Rights: Fundamental Instruments and Documents, Butterworths (Durban, South Africa), 1994.

Contributor to Crisis and Conflict: Essays on South African Literature, edited by G. Davis, Blau Eule, 1990.


Essop Patel has had a high-profile career as an attorney and acting High Court judge in his native South Africa, as well as a second career as a poet. In poetry collections such as his 1980 debut They Came at Dawn and the more recent The Bullet and the Bronze Lady Patel expressed his frustration over the apartheid policies held by the South African government prior to 1989. In his identification with the oppressed, Patel's early work reflected a strong black African consciousness, while in his more recent works he has begun to engage in such literary techniques as "word play and satire," according to an essayist in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English.

In such poems as "Notes from a Cell," "Tormentors of Our Dreams," and "Revolution Is …" from his 1987 collection The Bullet and the Bronze Lady, he conjures images of being dragged from one's bed in the night, young children radicalized by exposure to racial violence, and marches with clenched fists.

In addition to his own works of poetry, Patel has served as editor of collections authored by other South African poets of color, including Can Themba (1924-1968), and has coedited the poetry anthology The Return of the Amasi Bird: Black South African Poetry, 1891-1981. In an essay on the historical role of poetry in the struggle by black South Africans for racial equality he contributed to the 1990 anthology Crisis and Conflict: Essays on South African Literature, he decries apolitical literature and notes the power of resistance literature in fueling the ultimately successful efforts to end apartheid.



Hamilton, Ian, editor, The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994, p. 411.

Wilkinson, Jane, editor, Talking with African Writers: Interviews with African Poets, Playwrights, and Novelists, James Currey (London, England), pp. 159-172.


English Academy Review, number 3, 1985, p. 201.

Natal Mercury (Natal, South Africa), January 21, 1982.*