Summer 2010

Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 2


Poetry    Fiction    Reviews   

Dan Cuddy


Linda Annas Ferguson, Dirt Sandwich: Poems, Press 53, Winston-Salem, NC. $12

Linda Annas Ferguson is a poet well known in South Carolina, and is carving out a reputation throughout the South. She lived in the Baltimore area for a couple of years but her career never had traction here, though she did frequent the Harford Poetry Society and made friends there. Baltimore and its poetry scene in the early part of this decade ignored her. A shame. Ms Ferguson has bloomed as a poet. Her latest book, Dirt Sandwich, is an amazing display of mature poetry. Though her subject matter may have been garnered from the South, she is not just a regional poet. Any intelligent reader who takes their poetry seriously should enjoy the precision and concision of her poems. Exhibit A is “Topless Dancer” which I will quote in its entirety to show the vivid imagery and the craft employed in fashioning a poem.

She embraces her own body,
Cups a glitter-laden breast,
A golden moon. Dance
Is the way she speaks,
Embodies what she can’t say.

Flesh chilled by the room---
The spotlight coaxes her to the stage
Like a sun-warmed place. She teases
A silver pole, her only partner,
Holds on as if it were human.

Men at the bar grin each time she licks
Her lips, or the blue, bleeding heart
Tattooed beneath her rhinestone thong
Is exposed with subtle motions; trapped
Stories in her hands trying to create
A choreographed happy ending.

She almost believes the smiles
She receives, as if the soft edges
Of her stare could conjure all she needs.
The truck driver in the front row
Caresses the curve of his beer bottle,
Wipes its cold sweat through his hair.

It’s like a feather boa, this weight
Of nakedness. She takes it with her
As she bows to whistles and applause.
In the shower, she washes until the water
Is cold and her bones feel clean, scrubs
Away all the eyes that have touched her.

Laced throughout this poem are subtleties of sound, shifts of psychological perspective and the skilled use of metaphor. In the fourth stanza we seem to witness the dancer and the truck driver exchanging views of each other. Is the beer bottle not an apt symbol? Ms Ferguson has captured in words what is almost beyond words.
The book contains memory and the memory of loss. Though some of the poems are mythic in subject, Adam or Noah imagined, the strongest poems are those that come from the poet’s personal memory. Her mother is such a central figure. Ms Ferguson brings her alive and recreates in the reader’s mind the culture and time in which she lived. It was a hardscrabble existence. It was the poor white South. “Promises” begins

The two brown paper bags Mama left with
Contained all she thought
She’d ever need, her twenty year-old
Fiancé’s arm around the shoulder
Of a second-hand coat nobody missed.

The Bible, so important in the culture of the South, perhaps more than in any other region of the country, provides context with lines of verse from Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, introducing the narrative of many of the poems. Ms Ferguson’s universe is most of all moral. A childhood friend tells the narrator in “Noises in the Living Room” that she blames herself for her mother’s caning by the father. Perhaps there is a bit of Flannery O’Connor in Ms Ferguson’s vision, and Faulkner would have been at home in that world that she brings to life again. However, this collection of poetry is as contemporary as the scientific idea that the son has in the poem “The Rapture”

My son wants to know if a wormhole
Is how Elijah was taken into the sky

The humanity and the imagery in the poems are its spectacular achievements. The reader does not have to be a scholar to enjoy this book. The complex vision is expressed with imaginative simplicity. Ms Ferguson’s poems should light bonfires of empathy in our hearts. Our minds? We will be like that truck driver in the “Topless Dancer”, amazed at a finely sculptured, organic body of work. Perhaps some of us at times will be wiping tears into our hair.


© Dan Cuddy



Poetry    Fiction    Reviews   

Website Copyright © 2010 by Loch Raven Review.

Copyright Notice and Terms of Use: This website contains copyrighted materials, including, but not limited to, text, photographs, and graphics. You may not use, copy, publish, upload, download, post to a bulletin board. or otherwise transmit, distribute, or modify any contents of this website in any way, except that you may download one copy of such contents on any single computer for your own personal non-commercial use, provided you do not alter or remove any copyright, poet, author, or artist attribution, or any other proprietary notices.