Copyright jim ferguson 2018
Published by Etta's Dunn's FlemingPress in late November 2013, 'Songs to Drown a Million Souls' was launched at the Scotia Bar, Glasgow on Wednesday 12 February 2014 at 7 pm.
The launch was delayed due to the tragedy at the Clutha Vaults, the pub opposite the Scotia, where on the evening of 29 November 10 people were killed. One of those killed was the poet and prose writer John McGarrigle.
The poems are biograhical snapshots from the lives of Blues, Jazz and Soul artists, including Paul Robeson, Joe 'King' Oliver, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Gil Scott Heron.
Novelist Zoe Strachan describes the book:
'A major player on the Glasgow poetry scene, Ferguson's voice is fierce, anarchic and witty. His poems - even the clever metapoetic experiments - always have heart and soul. This new collection is tender and poignant, blue notes of tragedy and despair never far from the surface. A poet with integrity, writing about our great musical heroes in a strikingly personal way.'
Introduction to 'Songs to Drown a Million Souls'
The verses that follow concern very public and well documented events in the lives of ten artists who made huge contributions to African-American music. Their life stories give an entry point into an exploration of the history and development of American, European and African cultures since the beginning of the slave-trade in the middle 1600s to the present day. The verses are unashamedly didactic and they are genuinely unpolished in the best equivalent of a ‘bluesological’ style that I, as a white Scottish male, could create. I have chosen these particular ten artists to write about purely from personal taste and they reflect in some part the music I like to listen to. I hope that the language itself also contains some music, and will give people pause for reflection on the kind of world in which we all might one day hope to live. In this sense the verses are idealistic. There is a short essay at the end entitled ‘Coming out of Slavery’ which elaborates, explains and tries to bring closer to reality the ideas which have informed the writing.
from Joe King Oliver 1885-1938
Just sweepin the floor in a pool hall now
whistlin The Dippermouth Blues
smilin to himself a while
no longer in the news
Hat tipped over
his blind left eye
leanin against a wall,
this giant mountain of
soundin his own last
In the year of
he sounded his own
Pamphlet: 36 pages
Publisher: Fleming Publications (Nov 2013)