Poems and drawings from Ferguson

2010-02-03 00:00


Holding Pattern: Poems and Drawings

Gus Ferguson

Quartz Press

ON August 12, 2009, Gus Ferguson received, from the English Academy of Southern Africa, a gold medal in recognition of his enormous contribution to poetry.

Not only is he himself a celebrated poet and cartoonist but he has been responsible for publishing and promoting the work of numerous local writers and is the editor of the poetry journal, Carapace.

Holding Pattern is Ferguson’s eighth collection of poems. Characteristically the work is witty and playful, demonstrating the writer’s verbal agility, idiosyncratic humour, concision and experimentation with a variety of forms.

A number of the poems are about poetry itself and the business of publishing: what constitutes inspiration; how poems work, leaving “essential bits/ to the imagination”; what a publisher might ideally seek in submitted material. And in Stressed, ­Unstressed, Ferguson writes amusingly of giving a short talk on prosody — after considerable preparation — to a local writers’ club.

There are many references to other writers in the course of the work, most notably in Confession of a Rough Beast, which cheekily fuses allusions to both W. B. Yeats’s The Second Coming and Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. In Sonnet, which includes a long list of poets’ names deftly arranged to create the prescribed rhyme scheme, Ferguson highlights the familiar frustration of not being able to locate a particular name —

“O what’s his name, for goodness’ sake,

that Durban boy who fought in Spain?”

At last, in the couplet, the issue is resolved —

“The list above deserves acclaim

and, Royston Campbell. That’s his name!”

Potentially gloomy issues, like the dysfunctional memory and other symptoms of ageing, are lightly dealt with in several poems and drawings.

A keen cyclist, Ferguson includes “my precious bike” in the collection and there are references to the ­Argus race and to cycling incidents, encounters and sightings.

For the poet who established Snailpress and who edits Carapace, the signature poem in the collection might well be Suburban Epiphany, in which he observes, in a moist morning garden,

“a full-sail fleet of snails

tacking across the grass.”

Intelligent, original, informed, Ferguson’s work never fails to arrest attention.

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