In a Time of Distance: And Other Poems

Pantheon. Apr. 2022. 160p. ISBN 9780593315989. $22. POETRY
Best known for the much-acclaimed and madly popular “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series, McCall Smith is an immensely prolific author, having brought forth entries in at least a dozen book series for children and adults. This volume, then, adds to an already rich and full bibliography, and perhaps the only surprise is his diversion toward poetry as a genre; the humanity, warmth, and intelligence are all familiar. Smith’s verse reflects his experience as a traveler, and as someone as deeply immersed in African mores as Scottish; the strongest poems in this collection may be his impressions of wildlife (“Elephants,” “Kangaroos”), and, strangely, the weakest may be his paeans to reading itself. Like many prose writers who turn to poetry, Smith is more interested in the meaning he wishes to convey than in the complexities of the language in which poetry resides, but his poetry, in its very amiability, may provide an effective point of entry for readers new to the form.
VERDICT Meeting the creator of Mma. Ramotswe in another guise, as a gentle guide through life in many climates, is likely to prove irresistible for Alexander McCall Smith’s dedicated fan base.
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