I recently bought two poetry books, both written by recent graduates of the UCT Creative Writing MA. I studied creative writing in my second and third years at UCT as part of my BA – a course I enjoyed more and found more valuable than my IT studies. In spite of the intellectual snobbery that is directed towards arts and social sciences from the science and commerce worlds, I felt I learnt more in that course, and feel tremendously grateful for having the opportunity. Not too many have majors in both IT and Arts, and the combination has given me an important perspective on the strengths and failings of both disciplines.
Having read one of the books, Revisitings by Kim McClenaghan, I did some searching on the web, and found surprisingly little. So much of todays knowledge does not yet exist on the digital media. Books are written, sold to a small audience, and forgotten, doing a disservice to the content. Poetry doesn’t work for me online – it’s best read besides a stream, in a forest, as I did today, but there needs to be some sort of digital presence. So, doing my bit, I’ve added the author to Wikipedia. There was a slightly different version of one of Kim’s poems at Michael Cope’s Virtual Anthology – a great idea, but seemingly a once-off.
I enjoyed Kim’s his poetry – if the term romantic incorporates the cliche of pining after lost loves, it clearly applies to him, and not to me. I found the theme repetetive at times, but there were moments of inspiration, especially in the first few poems. In That Time “all poems are about endings,/words cease only in death”, he develops the idea of writer as being forced to write “we choose either/to write or die”. In Only Night “I write to live/or live to write of life”. Mentions of CP Cavafy, Guy Butler, Arthur Nortje and Douglas Livingstone betray his influences, and probably the influence of UCT MA course director and well-known poet Stephen Watson. A solid work, I look forward to reading the other, Personae by Sarah Johnson. Just to give myself some balance I’ve also recently bought two works by old masters – History is the Home Address by Mongane Wally Serote, one of my favourite South African poets, as well as Even the Dead by Jeremy Cronin.