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A RUTHLESS FIDELITY (article first published : 2004-10-26)

A Ruthless Fidelity : Collected Poems of Douglas Livingstone compiled and edited by Malcolm Hacksley (director of NELM , the National Literary History Musuem) and Don Maclennan (renowned South African poet and retired professor of English at Rhodes University), was launched recently at the 2004 Poetry Africa Festival.

The publication comprises poems from Douglas Livingstone’s previously published collections and other poems he published in journals and magazines across the globe. It also contains a selection of the poems he completed but which were never published and are now housed in the manuscript archives of NELM in Grahamstown.

The collection is introduced in an essay by Don MacLennan and concludes with an afterword by Malcolm Hacksley.

The book includes a bio-bibliography chronology, a textual introduction, textual notes on the poems and indexes of titles and first lines. Douglas Livingstone was born in Malaya but came to South Africa, aged 10, as a war refugee in 1942. A scientist by profession, with a doctorate in microbiology, he was a poet by conviction, compulsion and passion.

This new Selected Poems of Douglas Livingstone revisits the poet’s 40-year career covering six collections as well as previously unpublished poems. It has the advantage of wider perspective enabling poetry lovers to appreciate Livingstone’s life’s achievement. As editor, Michael Chapman, says Livingstone’s work never loses connection with Southern Africa. His settings are geographically African, his concerns take power and accent from the locality but his perceptions offered little comfort to either idealising Africanists or utopian Marxists.

His Africa of animals, veld, rivers and vulnerable human beings reflects a subcontinent in transition: from a colonial past in the 1960s through political tension in the 70s and 80s, to the 90s and the new challenges of the time. Douglas Livingstone died in 1996. The new Selected Poems makes available, again, the work of a major talent.

A Ruthless Fidelity – Collected Poems of Douglas Livingstone is produced by Jonathan Ball Publishers and retails at R225. Also available is the (new) Selected Poems of Douglas Livingstone edited by Michael Chapman which retails at R95.




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