MY BONNIE SCOTLAND by Jim Ferguson reviewed by Thomas Clark
Yin wey tae weir intae Jim Ferguson’s poetry micht be tae think aboot it as a kind o balancin act – or better, the act o somebody hingin oot the washin. Here’s Ferguson, on yin haun, pirlin oot his mental tapestries; an here’s his lines, on the ither, drawn taut like wires aneath the strain, readyin theirsels tae sneck. The gesserant poems in “My Bonnie Scotland”, this gleg new pamphlet fae Tapsalteerie, are stallions o a sort, an the real artistry in Ferguson’s scrievin is hou much he’s able tae mak each o them beir afore they aw – as they maun – kick oot.
Ferguson’s wirk has aft been descrivit as surrealist, an yon’s fair eneuch, sae faur as it gans. But it’s ayeweys wirth a thocht that the poetry o surrealism has tae be siccarly anchored in the real – mair sae, mebbe, than ony ither poetry. Sae when Ferguson, in the openin poem “Alex Harvey was our guide” weaves the inmaist voice o Glesga intae a kind o radio cross-stitch o sound, he’s got tae get that voice spot on, an he dis:
this is heh jimmy with a slice of jacques brel
it’s a theatre of sound
you can touch, taste and smell
Stravaigin further intae Ferguson’s kenspeckle warld, ye cannae help noticin hou rarely colour appears in “My Bonnie Scotland” as a mere property o a thing. Colour, in Ferguson, is near ayeweys an item aw o its ain – a red swirl, a blue efternuin, a rainbow – an when it arrives, it arrives in thrang, a chromatic hotchpotch o tinctures, aw splyterin thegither:
to aqua blue
Ferguson’s poetry in the exact same wey, its images bleedin intae yin anither as they rin (sometimes literally) doon the page. In “My Bonnie Scotland”, the boonds atween things, atween notions, atween nations, are aye artifeecial. The waw, the hedge, the cage. Here, ye sense, is poetry tae dae awa wi aw that.
Ye’ll come back tae “My Bonnie Scotland”. Ye’ve got tae. Ye approach it again an again, like a bairn leukin at his reflection in a spoon, tryin tae wirk oot the point at which everythin turnt upside-doon. Ye niver find it, o coorse, but this is Jim Ferguson – did ye really expect tae? Poems like these, in the makar’s ain wirds,
make your red heart skip a beat
in the sour-sweet life that makes you cry