Don Maclennan: Collected Poems

¬Don Maclennan (1929-2009) was one of South Africa’s best-loved teachers and the pre-eminent poet of his generation. Though he matured as a poet only in his fifties, he produced some twenty volumes before his death. He won the Sanlam literary prize for Solstice in 1997 but, uninterested in fame or fortune, many of his volumes were privately produced in limited print runs. As made clear by the companion volume to this collection – ‘No Other World’: Essays on the life-work of Don Maclennan – he was perhaps the most philosophically profound, introspectively honest, and stylistically pure writer in the country. None of our poets is more penetrating without cynicism, more beautifully thoughtful, or more readable.

The Collected Poems gathers some 600 poems, including all the published volumes as well as numerous poems printed in periodical magazine and hitherto unavailable in one book. This collection therefore provides the first comprehensive view of Maclennan’s poetry over thirty years of consistent production. It shows clearly the poet’s development towards a style of increasing spareness and lucidity of image. No poetry in the nation reveals greater passion for the mere fact of being alive or greater clarity of vision; few can match its uncompromising honesty and courage in the face of physical collapse and impending death. Maclennan was not merely a literary icon – he was and is a life-teacher.

In a world of pervasively dishonest politics and commercial materialism, the penetrating analysis provided by poetry is more important than ever. Don Maclennan: Collected Poems deserves a place on every discerning reader’s bedside table.

PrintMatters, Cape Town. 2013. 367pp.
ISBN 978-0-987-0095-6-2