Insights into the mind of a significant SA poet

2012-11-07 00:00

REVIEW: no other world : Essays on the life-work of Don Maclennan

Dan Wylie and Craig MacKenzie (editors)

Print Matters Heritage

No other world, a compilation of essays on the life and work of South African poet Don Maclennan (1929-2009), offers insights into the man and his thinking, and provides analyses of his writing, notably of the longer poems, Notes from a Rhenish Mission (2001) and A Letter to William Blake (2003).

While it is a tribute to Maclennan, affording friends and colleagues the opportunity to reflect on their associations with him, it will also be a useful text for teachers and students studying Maclennan’s writing.

Probably best known in his capacity as a lecturer in English at Rhodes University, a position he held, full-time, from 1966 to 1994, and as a writer with over 20 published collections of poetry to his name, Maclennan also had a keen interest in the theatre and in classical music, and was an enthusiastic hiker and climber. According to his wishes, expressed in the poem, Under Compassberg, his ashes were scattered “on the summit I so loved”.

In an interview with Joan Mettlerkamp in 2002, Maclennan stated that his “sense of poems is that they are a tool for exploration; that you use them to find things out.” His work reveals his preoccupation with the experience of being human — searching for meaning as one confronts transience and the inevitability of death.

Using the poetry as a form of conversation — with himself as much as with his readers — Maclennan rejects the notion of “another place/where hungry souls can go” and suggests that since “this is where we live” and all we can be sure of, it is necessary to appreciate, even celebrate, daily existence.

Maclennan’s acknowledged atheism is evident in the title of this compilation, no other world, a phrase taken from the epigraph to his collection, The Road to Kromdraai (2002): “Other world? There is no other world; here or nowhere is the whole fact.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

no other world is a reminder that the voice of this significant South African poet should not be neglected.


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