I was asked to publish the following review by my good friend Jackie Moore some time ago, but deferred, not looking for something better [I don’t think that’s possible, and I am so grateful for the honest comments] but perhaps hoping for an ‘objective’ commentary from someone who didn’t know me or my work, arriving entirely new. Alas, since its publication in 2016 there have been no other reviews, so I am going to share, as requested, with again my great thanks:
I have enjoyed reading these poems; it matters not whether I had seen them before. Ferguson’s writing always strikes me afresh with its understatement, irony and sudden reversals. He always draws the reader in with that non-intrusive conversational voice: almost a trap, sometimes.
I always appreciate the poems where he indirectly admits to the limitations of his life. The delicacy of the ‘loss’ poems is irresistible and moving. Two-Step is beautiful – so delicate, lyrical and gentle, which points up the extent of what has been lost from the past. The idea of dance with its coordinated harmonies also underlines this. So sad: this shouldn’t be a ‘two step’, should it? A sense of things stripped down, companionship lost, and closeness in the rhythm of life.
On the same theme, but in total contrast, is the superficially humorous meditation on the last shred on the roll in Toilet Paper. Although the poem is grounded in the trivial and the mundane, the link between the paper of the toilet roll – padded like his cell of life at times – and the paper of the map says it all. The choice of trivia as subject matter speaks volumes. Ferguson is forced to look down in contrast to the man with the map and his boundless horizons, unfettered thoughts flying free and high. Very much in harmony with Ghost Voice, the so-sad Reading at Port Launay, and the sense of the woman with only vicarious experience in relationships of Primal Instinct: the sense of being excluded from love and from life.
The two poems about snow are more direct about the cruelties of life and the pain delivered in a medical verdict. The last poem is terrifying, with a most urgent sense of life running out. At the same time, there is a sense of confidence running out, a dreadful breakdown of sense experience, of interpreting and directing one’s life. Too many years of pain and stress have undermined the existential joy of being alive. But then, is it worth it? The horrors of the natural law revealed in Wild Dog suggest the problems we face in a hostile universe. How can one be strong? Are we merely controlled creatures subjected to cruel laws not of our making and not in our understanding?
These are the poems I prefer because of their noumenal qualities, of movement outwards, very delicate and gentle, but perhaps Root Canal and Poo Pipe are too overt for me?
In Fishing, I don’t understand the link between ‘triumph’, ‘fears’, ‘optimism’ and ‘hope’. It seems to be about a dog-eat-dog philosophy, but I have doubts about that reading. Finally, Precarious Real: of course I loved the joke about the two philosophies, and again the sense of tentativeness, though it is rapidly explained by the cow shit. Perhaps this is too bathetic for me as I don’t have a scatological sense of humour, an imprint from my convent education!
There is fun to be had in the cover illustration. It suggests dance. Being a Virgo, I was immensely troubled by the illogicality of the sequence – it doesn’t do what it looks as though it should do, or is doing. In this way I think it’s a really good example of the ‘precariously real’. It looks as though the footprints meet; but they don’t. Looks like the standard use of footprints indicating coitus, but it’s wrong. It would be right if the LHS prints halt before a mirror – seeing things ‘through a glass darkly’, as Ruskin said. All-in-all it’s about the illusionary and the Real.
I’m not sure, but the chapbook should still be available here.