Thursday, September 21, 2023

GAS Featured Poet: Jim Ferguson


I started to write with serious intent in 1984 during a period of illness and convalescence. Due to a bump on the head I had developed an epilepsy which luckily diminished, and I was able to live free of medication and other restraints from 1990 forward. During this period I lived in Paisley, Scotland. In 1986 I joined a writers’ group that met weekly on Monday evenings in Paisley Central Library. The group was tutored by poet and critic Tom Leonard who was immensely inspirational and from whom I learned a lot about the politics of language. Some of us formed ourselves into a group called Itinerant Poets. We published several pamphlets and did readings throughout central Scotland, mostly in the Paisley/Glasgow area. My closest partners in this endeavour were the poets Graham Fulton and Bobby Christie: we published work by Ronald McNeil, Christine McCammond, Brian Whittingham and Margaret Fulton Cook.

I have always enjoyed writing poetry and prose. My starting point was with poetry and short stories. Over time I began to write longer prose pieces and have written five novels to date, three are unpublished. Two were published in short print runs by small presses: Punk Fiddle (2012) and Neither Oil Nor Water (2017). My first poetry collection, The Art of Catching a Bus and other Poems was published by Ramsey Kanaan’s AK Press in 1994. Since then I have published five other collections, numerous pamphlets and a couple of CDs.

I have contributed poetry, short stories, essays and criticism to academic books, literary anthologies and arts magazines, including: Air, West Coast Magazine, Variant, Nerve, Cutting Teeth, Minted, Common Sense, The Purple Patch, Edinburgh Review, Scottish Child, Rebel Inc, Billy Liar, The Echo Room, The Wide Skirt, Harry’s Hand, Blade, Cerasus, Dog, Dreich, Gutter Magazine, Metachrosis Literary and New Writing Scotland. I also had work in the Clocktower Press publications, Folk and Zoomers edited by Duncan McLean in the early nineteen nineties.

I gained a doctorate from the University of Glasgow for my biographical study of Paisley poet and songwriter Robert Tannahill (1774-1810).  More recently I have been working in collaboration with artist Louise Malone, poet Derek J. Brown, musicians Carol Jamnejad, Brian McFall, and others, as part of The Glasgow Literary Lounge Arts Collective which was formed out of an idea conceived by the late Ruby McCann: under this banner we have hosted many live events and produced loadsa FnB videos

I live in the East End of Glasgow and tutor a weekly creative writing group at Glasgow Kelvin College.

Jim Ferguson 11 September 2023. 

This is a list poem

 how the world’s horrors scream at you

and how the middle-classes avoid and ignore them
and how the workers are seduced by soaps
and how the homeless and dispossessed know it
and how the poets drink to oblivion
and how the comedians think their lives serious
and how the novelists write only pulp
and how the insane are mostly in prison
and how the newspapers strive to cover it... ...up
and how the oligarchs conspire to deceive
and how the religions rush to look the other way
and how the tv won’t really show it
and how the footballers don’t know the price of milk
and how the snobs watch the cream curdle
and how the athletes compete for the money
and how the bureaucrats use forms to hide it
and how the internet is too free to tell it
and how the musicians sing nothing but pop
and how the bankers are rewarded for fraud
and how the politicians pretend nothing happened
and how the fiddlers basically fiddle
and how the junkies are mystics in tatters
and how the smokers pay all that tax
and how the gangsters are really all police
and how the police are all really gangsters
and how the teachers are not free to teach
and how the stupid are the first to condemn
and how the pious are sexual oppressors
and how the drunks are poets in disguise
and how the arms dealers blow off your legs
and how the rage at injustice rages no more
and how the universe floats on inside us
and how the spies are always your neighbours
and how the whole fucking thing is mendacious
and how you can’t even trust your own self
and how real success is to merely survive
a little longer
                       than the person
                                                  dying in the bed
                                                                              next to yours  

Our Planet, Our Home
the planet Earth is reading old books
as if to know our world better

as if to understand how
hearts come to burst apart

when questions physicists might ask
about light and electricity and radiation
and magnetic fields are all related just like
any other family, full of upstarts, wayward sheep,
who would have thought, all fingers and thumbs,
in the grey-green light of day, for all of us,
a suite of equations reveals some invisible force ─
in night’s dark-matter, in mysterious musical stars


so the planet Earth breathes and says
there’s violence in the winds and floods

in solar flares and supernovae,
damaged hearts look out with innocent eyes
the earth rotates ─ a massive magnet
falling through space as continents drift
hift and buckle    break           apart
cracking the crust of everything

considered real in dreams of permanence ─
folk and fauna flock to higher ground
or busily pray to save themselves
naively smiling, children stare
terrifyingly terrified at the wall of fire
that speeds unbound toward them


Earth holds all the properties of matter in hand
while we’re trying to understand that rock
can bend and ice can flow and lava too, from vast
volcanic pimples, some like Arthur’s Seat
are now extinct, no pyroclastic or igneous spew
to roll forth over Edinburgh New Town
how regally it sits, a planned affair,
when we walk out and take the air

madly trying to calculate the age of the Earth,
before the shock of revelation
places the dice in the hands of gravitation,
she is weak but momentum is strong ─

to look abstract science straight in the eye and ask,
is progress fair? (or fare?)

while doubting doubt itself,
the old rich cling to certainty while uncertainty is king


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