Copyright jim ferguson 2018
Since the early 1990s I have been writing occasional essays, this short piece was written in 2011 as a foreword for an anthology of poetry and short stories, Sure 2b Braw, published by Easterhouse Writers' Group.
Foreword for Sure 2b Braw
In 1999 I wrote the following:
‘somehow the competitive clouds of smoke and scorching
flames of control that rise out from within the
anonymous free-market envelop and imprison, driving
one back from that real freedom to which
civilisation and dignity would direct our aspirations.’
Recently, because of the crisis in global finance, the very real effects of how the market economy operates have been writ large in newspapers and discussed widely in every other outlet of the media. What I am talking about is the way in which economic and political power structures act to control our everyday lives. Both our freedom to think and our freedom to use our time in ways we see fit. Yet the simple act of sitting down to write an original piece of literary art, a story, a poem, a play, or whatever form an author might choose, represents making a decision to take into your own hands the freedom to act and freedom to think for yourself. This of course should be the nature of all art, not just literature. It is when a piece of writing, or any work of art, shows us something of the ‘freedom to which civilisation and dignity would direct our aspirations’, that it has the ability to move us and connect with us fully as human beings. Such art and such artistic activity is necessary if we are to retain any ‘hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man’.
All of this might at first sight appear to be a million miles away from the activities of a small writers’ group meeting in the East End of Glasgow but it is not: every member of that group, when they sit down to write, assert their claim to freedom and dignity as human beings. This claim is worth no less and no more than that of any other person on the earth; yet both individually and collectively the stories and poems of these writers are every bit as important (probably more so) as celebrity biographies or the approved texts of school and university curricula. The page or computer screen remains one of the few places human beings can be free to express themselves, regardless of whether or not anyone in a position of power actually bothers to consider such writers, their ideas, or the facts and details of their existence.
Many of the pieces in this anthology are concerned with facts and details of existence that are important to those who have written them. For the most part the writing here deals with situations, emotions and ideas that will be very familiar to many people resident in the Glasgow area and indeed those living in almost any city anywhere in the world. The subject matter ranges widely, stretching from a desire to escape the urban to domestic violence; from the odd joke about farting to the sometimes dodgy experiences to be had on public transport. The language is lively, thoughtful, humourous and engaging. Such is the variety that there is probably something here to cater for all tastes, even the most arcane.
For the past two years I have had the enormous pleasure of working as a ‘tutor’ with the Easterhouse Writers’ Group. It has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life. I’m sure I’ve learned more from the group than they have from me. They are a great crowd and I am grateful to have had the opportunity of meeting everyone who has walked through the door on a Monday evening. The Bridge Library staff and the staff of John Wheatley College have been enormously helpful and supportive. Without such support and assistance the group would find it much more difficult to function. Long may this group and others like it survive and not just survive but thrive: literature is both an art and a gift that helps us keep becoming human. Let us cherish it and those who love it.
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“Robert Tannahill’s The Soldier’s Return is an important work by a significant contemporary of Burns who deserves our attention.
Jim Ferguson has performed a vital service in helping to bring this neglected dramatic text to a wider audience”.
Professor Willy Maley, University of Glasgow
Links to essays on Robert Tannahill
by Jim Ferguson