Friday, July 18, 2008

Sending Steve

Sending Steve Steve Ferguson December 10, 1943-June 29, 2008

It’s a different thing getting to know someone thru letters, with stamps procured & envelopes licked. Script has got charm, (even if i type my own letters). Handwritings or margin sizes are as hairstyles, or trouser choices are to presenting oneself, in society. Stylish bits of the self are thus displayed. There’s almost no limit, with letters, on subject matter, because a decent one has only to fill the page. Few other rules apply. For quick messages, a postcard may be used. Some letter writers select papers based, i think, on how much they have to say; how much room they intend to fill. Perhaps only a handful of minutes are to be had for the letter, so a smallish stationary may be used. A special fold maybe, or margins are played with. Blank greeting cards for laudatory notes or special writings.

i got to know Steve Ferguson mainly thru letters. A sweet, brilliant man who never minced words, Steve floated his own boat. We met a few (brief) times at readings, but usually one of us was on our way to work just after the read, or some other thing prevented any real conversation. So what i know of Steve truly exists in his letters.

While i wrote him rambling, disjointed rants, poems, and dissections, what i pried open from Bridge Ave. # 4 was often pure literature. Perhaps Steve used writing me letters as an outlet for writing in general. His sentences, maybe on pedestrian matter, by rhythm and syllabic structure sounded off the page, for miles. Sometimes he told me he no longer wrote poetry. His next letter might contain a freshly-writ poem. Of course, our selves could not be questioned or disputed.

i never saved a copy of my letters, even though i drafted them on my PC, so i often wrote him the same things consecutively. Steve’s fine sentences were always new, and shifted from squirrels, to birds, to Beethoven & Bach, to his own piano playing, which involved all of the above. He often referred to his hero Steven Collins Foster. Several months before he died Steve hefted a piano into his home and acquired many Foster songs, to learn and play.

One poet told me, before Bill Clinton came around, Steve Ferguson was the Slickest Willy around. Thotful, sweetheart, wildcat, & from left field---all used by others to describe the man. i think the Steve i got was my own. Certainly, the ramblings i sent to Bridge varied from those i sent in post or email, to other friends. In a sense, he and i crafted ourselves and each other on mainly white, bleached papers for a handful of years.

Steve was a kind of private person. More than once he wrote, you better not tell anyone, but…. And so the idea of publishing,or giving the letters to some library special collection, say, causes me to pause. And consider. And go back. And consider, again. Like Steve, i am a too-thotful person.

Steve’s humility in general, and (chosen) anonymity make me hesitate even to speak of him after his death! O man, i’d like to scream it from the rooftops : STEVE FERGUSON WAS A FLIPPIN AWESOME POET, HAH! Franz Kafka made it explicit he wished certain works, such as The Kastle to remain unpublished, after his death. But his executor, who was also his best friend, put it and anything else he had of Kafka’s into print, finished or not. Max Brod felt these writings both personal or professional valuable to the world. Hart Crane destroyed too late, his early writings. Posthumously, these poems which embarrassed the author were collected, as an afterword in the Crane omnibuses.

So what is the value of a writer’s wish?
i wish i knew what things i could print or say about Steve, and still be respecting.
Perhaps i jes' better read more well his letters.

Steve Ferguson published and promoted poetry around Cleveland consistently in the seventies, when some poets took a break, after so much drama. Since, he has lived a quiet life in Ohio City, working in a grocery near West 25th and Fulton Ave. He is known of course for his relationship with d.a. levy, a local legend of the small press poetry scene who hand-crafted books in friends houses, in places like Shaker Heights. Steve edited some grass roots literary newspapers, like the Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle, and was a mainstay in the scene. But like many Clevelanders, he was not known to draw attention to himself. Not seeking a limelight. And so in obscurity, he spanned his time, most recently with a she-cat named Lena. There is a beautiful obit by a man named Mark Stueve:

There is also a ‘little book’ by Steve Green Panda Press originally published, as part of an anthology (Animals Without Backbones Cleveland, OH 2008). If you would like a copy, please email with a mailing address.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like that you mentioned re the letter writing that perhaps you were an outlet for Writing. Oft when I write my emails they end up being recycled into some kinda blog.

Good to have a specific, inspiring audience to write to.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau