The first time Don Maclennan lectured me – on Athol Fugard’s playwriting – the list of books he gave for reading were all written by him. He was the authority. He was the guy listed as the scholar to read to further understand the playwright.
I wondered if it was hubris or vanity that he listed only his writings. I asked librarians. One sniggered. She’d heard it before. He really was, in so many ways, the authority.
An English professor at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Maclennan was a gifted lecturer and mentor, seemingly ancient when I met him more than 20 years ago. And a prolific poet, who wrote fine poetry.
It gives me hope that in these dark times of corruption, nepotism, Marikana and the ANC leadership struggle, South Africa can still publish a book about a teacher, a man with a vast intellect and an insatiable desire to pass on his knowledge.
Maclennan was Jonathan Jansen for a previous generation. He was a teacher of such great heart that he forever changed his students, inspired them and prodded them to use their brains.
He wrote poetry that whistled through you like the wind did through the sparse Eastern Cape landscape he loved so much.
His poetry was as sparse as he was, but as poignant as that furrowed Gandalf-like brow. He had piercing eyes, but a soothing manner that made you want to be your best to, somehow, gain his approval. And, if you did, he would pour his wisdom on you.
No Other World is a collection of essays about the life of Maclennan, “one of South Africa’s most incisive and important poets of the last few decades”. And then some.
Maclennan left a lasting impression. I listen to poetry more acutely. I see more irony, and I hear the wind.
He deserves a collection of volumes about his life.
No Other World: Essays on the life work of Don Maclennan, edited by Dan Wylie and Craig MacKenzie. (Print Matters)