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Dubious Delights

by Gus Ferguson

Reviewed by Andrew Renard

(St Andrews College, Grahamstown)

Gus Ferguson is a pharmacist who has mastered the formulae of many verse forms. He is a master of the rhyming couplet and a genius at the Haiku form. He is insightful, philosophical, witty…and almost too clever sometimes.

His talent lies in encapsulating the essence of life in just a few lines. His anthology, which is only a few pages long, provides an interesting but sometimes sad evening’s reading. He considers the inevitable slowing down as midlife crises become past problems. There are advantages: extended foreplay, the perks of Alzheimer’s. There are drawbacks: loss of function, the truth of Alzheimer’s.

Ferguson has great fun playing with language. A haiku about hens and roosters is called Kraaiku, the plural of “Kabeljou” becomes “Kabeljulle”. Yet my favourite poem from the anthology is a reflection of his true poetic ability rather than his cleverness. On seconding a runner by bicycle is an effective and original metaphor. Ferguson himself claims that “truth might be the shadow cast by metaphor” and the “truth” of what an angel feels is mirrored by his emotions as he seconds a long distance runner. The writing is simple, disciplined and exact.

As an independent publisher, Gus Ferguson has played a major role in highlighting and promoting the talents of South African poets. Tellingly, this volume is published by Unpublished Manuscript Press, not Snailpress, his company, which deserves credit for the opportunities he has offered to writers who otherwise would certainly go unpublished. Dubious Delights may not qualify as a “coffee table” book, but it is a worthwhile addition to your bedside table of the smallest room in the house. This anthology will appeal to the intelligent reader who wants to have his mind challenged, but doesn’t have the time to read a 600 page tome. (The index is rather funny, too!)

If you spurn his work there’s no harm as he

Still has a job at a pharmacy

But some writers’ works would not exist

Without this generous pharmacist

Andrew Renard

Last Modified: Fri, 31 Mar 2017 12:08:00 SAST