Fitting Tribute to Remarkable Poet

Cape Times (South Africa), December 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

Fitting Tribute to Remarkable Poet


Before starting to read this book, I decided to re-familiarise myself with Maclennan's poetry.

Was he a great South African poet, with the depth and range of Jack Cope or Douglas Livingstone? My conclusion was a qualified "No". But he was most assuredly a poet of sterling calibre, undeservedly obscure. He dealt elegantly, humbly and accessibly with the great themes, never falling into didacticism and mawkishness, nor chasing, at the expense of quality, the political engagement that some felt was the moral obligation of poets under apartheid.

There is something disarmingly appropriate about the genre-busting structure of No Other World.

Instead of providing a detailed linear biographical narrative, each vignette by a different author deals with a specific topic. The multiple facets of Maclennan are presented through the eyes of those who knew him, as a husband, teacher, rock-climber, writer, intellectual, humanist, actor, musician... in fragments that collude to provide a cubist portrait, as robust and as numinous as the man himself.

Although the pieces are called "essays", there is little academic posturing. The compiler-editors have exploited diverse sources, all articulate and knowledgeable, and each with a particular personal interest in sharing the genius of Maclennan. The collection is allusive and faceted, accessible without being patronising.

There are four sections: "The life" (a personal account from Maclennan's widow, Shirley, and an interview); "Tributes" from individuals who each experienced a different Don; "Critical essays", many of which finally do justice to some very neglected academic discussions of his work, and a useful bibliography. …

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