2007 - 2021

My Bonnie Scotland

My-Bonnie-ScotlandMY 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:

from red

to pink

to yellow

to lilac

to orange

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


Comments (4)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Alf Baird says:

    Gey interestin, tho the last twa paras seem tae be sayed ower, no that hit maiters.

    ‘Ma Bonnie Scotland’ soonds better as a title, mebbe e’en Scots raither than English, naw?

    A’m no intae poetry ataw. Mebbe thons becaus maist bairns juist got Burns ance a year in schuil, yet we wirna e’en taucht wir ain Scots leid so aften cuidna unnerstaund the wuirds verra weel. Discriminaeshin agin the Scots tongue an cultur will shuirly continue until Scots is taucht tae aw Scottish bairns in wir schuils.

    Mind, A fair liked Alex Harvey’s muisic.

  2. punklin says:

    Born English, lived most of my life in Scotland and a linguist by trade, I love listening to Scots yet still find it hard to read.

    Like music and Ulysses, best when heard aloud?

    1. Tam says:

      I’m fascinated by Scots, and love listening to it too. And I find it it takes effort to read, whether its prose or poetry.
      So I agree punklin, it’s hard…and I prefer listening that reading… but it’s a harsh interpretation to say it’s ‘best when heard aloud’. The real issue is we weren’t taught or brought up reading it, therefore it’s hard. If we were brought up reading English it would be hard to read, even though we speak it…

      … that said more audiobooks in Scots are an absolute must for humanity. The few that contain Scots (Sunset song, Trainspotting etc.) are amazing with a good reader…

      Check out this series of videos from Creative Scotland on the use of Scots across the arts with Scots authors reading their work: if you can’t listen to all (and the first 5 minutes is poor quality) skip to 16 min 40sec to hear James Robertson reading from some his work… it’s brilliant, he has a great voice… really charming writing.

      Copy this into your url and removes the spaces:
      Creative Scotland
      https: //vimeo.com/ 141169617

  3. Jim Ferguson says:

    Who says no one saw Trump and Brexit coming! Here’s a poem from December 2015… https://youtu.be/rTuRVN-40R0

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.