THE MUMBLE : When did you realise you were a poet, what was the catalyst?
a right mess
n blagged it
a right mess
wioot ma hoovir
THE MUMBLE : Who were your poetic inspirations then, & who inspires you today?
Dr JIM :Not long after I’d bought the typewriter I started going to Tom Leonard’s writing group in Paisley. It was an amazing group, with strong characters and robust debate. Tom is an excellent teacher and a great poet, his ideas on language, class and power were really liberating for me. Before meeting Tom it seemed like I had been writing in the dark. I hadn’t figured out for myself the essential connectedness of language and politics and the mechanics of how the connections operated. I was groping towards those ideas but Tom’s work switched on a light in my mind that opened myriad creative paths for me. It felt like all the disparate parts of myself had come together, it was a wonderful process. I could see how I could be a literary artist. I’d already been reading a lot of Beckett, cummings, Wordsworth, Percy B. Shelley, Burns, Plath, Stevie Smith, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Ted Hughes, Wilfred Owen, some of the beats, Dylan Thomas, Erica Jong, J. P. Donleavy and Jack London. The folk I met at Paisley Writers Group still inspire me, Graham Fulton, Bobby Christie, Margaret Fulton Cook and Brian Whittingham. Folk from Glasgow I met around the same period were Karen Thomson, Freddie Anderson, James Kelman, Rab Fulton and John McGarrigle. In Edinburgh there was Sandie Craigie, Duncan McLean, Viv Gee and Rodney Relax. Graham Brodie and nick-e melville came along a little later. Other writers I liked were Tom Pickard, Gerrie Fellows, Tom Raworth, Eveline Pye, Brendan Cleary and W. S. Graham. Graham’s collected poems sits on my desk most of time, he covered a great breadth of work in his lifetime. Right now my favourite poem of his is ‘Implements in their Places’ which is a magnificent piece of writing. Mayakovsky, Erich Fried, Pablo Neruda and Brecht were influences too.
THE MUMBLE : What is the main driving force behind your writing?
Dr JIM :I don’t really know. I accept that I want to write and it makes me feel good when I do it. I don’t think I have much of an agenda other than some vague idea of empathy, a sense of being human and humane and wanting to share that with others. Fear of death, maybe? Fear of loneliness, maybe? A desire to understand everything better? But probably the simple hedonism of feeling good when I do it is the main thing for me.
Dr JIM :Glasgow University gave me that title for my thesis on Robert Tannahill. That was the only route to fund the research I had to do to write the book. Tannahill was a great poet and songwriter, more folk should read him and hear his songs. I took the doctorate gladly.
THE MUMBLE : How does being an accepted member of the establishment fit in with your punkish roots?Dr JIM :I’m not a member of any establishment. Don’t be absurd [smiles].
clocks tick – nature is silent
when she waited for her wages
yet they failed to come
and she smiled down on her children
sleeping safe and warm
- were they monetised yet?
- converted strictly to cash
- were they dropped off in the pawn?
- possessions of an ugly kind of love
did the Gods see her coming
did her work take her soul
and did she give of her off-spring
to take home Faustian gold?
no, no, no, it wasn’t like that
she was never, never, in control
all she had was stale bannocks
and some mouse-sized cheese
- were they hungry yet?
- were the crops doomed to fail?
- feeding innocent mouths on thimbles of brine
- clocks tick and yet nature doesn’t tell the time
as a hundred massive airships filled the skies
hoped against hope, hope would tumble down
not some black-snow sorrow yet unseen
but quiet nutritious love that might sustain
- when will we see home again
- her children wake and wonder
- when will we see home again?
- her children wait and question everyday
when grown, they bury her in sand and clay
but don’t see home again
no, no, no, it is how it is,
just don’t see home again
a mirage in their minds arises very near
yet remains so very very far away
the guards won’t let them pass, the fences reach so high
it’s here they’ll stay and here they’re sure to die
clocks tick yet nature does not tell the time
clocks tick yet nature does not tell the time.
THE MUMBLE : What are your thoughts on the Scottish Poetry Scene?
Dr JIM :I like a lot of what is happening now. Though I worry about the use of a standard Grime/Rap rhythm, which can get a bit tedious to me at times. There are lots of good live performers with a good breadth of language use. I’d like to see more poems written in Arabic coming out of Scotland. On the page I liked Jackie Kay’s pamphlet ‘The Empathetic Store’ published by Mariscat Press recently.
THE MUMBLE : Who in your eyes are the poets we should be keeping an eye on in 2017?
Dr JIM :Anything by Sandra Alland, Kate Tough, Calum Rodger, Rachel McCrum, Robert Kerr, Craig Birrell.
THE MUMBLE : What does Jim Ferguson like to do when he’s not dallying with the muses?
from ‘for Eva’ – 19. often the rich complain
often the rich complain
that the poor are living too long
the poor just use up resources
that could better be used by the rich
those unproductive ones who live too long
are draining the rich of a source of their profits
yet i don’t see the rich all queuing to die
before their natural time – in reality quite the reverse
i wept for my wee dying mother
who didn’t have time
to do all the things that she wanted
all of her life she was poor
all of her life she worked in a job
where the air poisoned her body
i did not hear the rich complain
about such working conditions –
though they were busy aboard their yachts
catching sun-tans and sending out orders –
it is always all right for the poor to die this way
but the rich never say, please let me die this way too