Thistle Bloom Books - October 17, 2007 - 2 Comments

Commute Poems

Commute Poems by Jesse Ferguson

Reviewed by Joanna M. Weston

From the content of Ferguson’s poems it is unclear which meaning of ‘commute’ he intends: to reduce a prison sentence; to make substitution; or to travel regularly over some distance to work.

There is real promise in his flights of language and his obvious love of words in this unpaginated chapbook of eleven poems.  Unfortunately he falls into the trap of playing word games, as in ‘Lichen’:

Like Unto
   Mar Bull


Master Cater

His love of word-games leads him to use alliteration too frequently as in ‘A Vindication of the Flights of Seagulls’:

…the blanched bone updrafts of dawn
flays with squawking scalpel …

which goes on with ‘feathered fins giving push to pull’ and other alliterative sequences.

His free-form poetry, ‘Emily Carr’ shows promise of a talent:

… she … the ungainly spar tree
… the many cables and pulleys
they slung over her limbs to leverage
their burdensome wants …
have yet to produce buckle or bow
she remains totem tall

But he needs to reduce the impetous to be clever and let the talent flow freely.

Joanna M. Weston has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty years. Has two middle-readers, The Willow Tree Girl and Those Blue Shoes; also A Summer Father, poetry, published by Frontenac House of Calgary, all in print.


On October 23, 2007, Alex said:

I have nothing against being concise, but this is a really, really short review. I haven’t read the book, but the lines describing the seagulls seem pretty good to me. The imagery has a consistency to it, with the bones and the flaying and the scalpel, and I found it provocative. I also didn’t find the alliteration of blanched bone and squawking scalpel overdone, though I guess there might be a cumulative effect.

Is “impetus” meant in the final line? There’s also an interesting question raised in whether a talent left to flow freely might naturally express itself through the kind of word play and habits described here as cleverness. I think the reviewer means that Ferguson should give his cleverness less of a free hand.

On March 13, 2008, Tim said:

isn’t the use of words with multiple meanings, & therefore offering multiple “readings”, a defining feature of poetry? surely, the poet means _all_ of the possible meanings of “commute”.

what’s wrong with word-games? the reviewer expresses a negative value-judgement (“unfortunately”) about the poet’s playfulness.

methinks the author’s mind has been invaded by academic theories, & has forgotten the ecstatic, magical roots of poetry.

Joanna is a worshiper of Apollo (in his modern avatar Julia Kristeva, perhaps); Jesse’s closer to Cernunnos.

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