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Lara Rains & Colonial Rites

Howard Fergus's poems explore the nature of living on Montserrat, a 'two-be-three island/hard like rock', vulnerable to the forces of nature (Hurricane Hugo and the erupting Soufriere) and still 'this British corridor'. He writes honestly and observantly about these contingencies, finding in them metaphors for experiences which are universal.


Howard Fergus
Date published
1 Mar 1998

Nature's force strips life to its bare essentials ('Soufriere opened a new bible/in her pulpit in the hills/ to teach us the arithmetic of days') and reveals creation and destruction as one ('We celebrate Hugo child of God/ he killed and made alive for a season').

In a small island society, individual lives take on an enhanced significance: they are its one true resource and the sequence of obituary poems brings home with especial force how irreplaceable they are. Beyond Montserrat, Fergus looks for a wider Caribbean unity, but finds it only in cricket (and crime). Cricket, indeed, provides a major focus for his sense of the ironies of Caribbean history: that through a white-flannelled colonial rite with its roots in an imperial sense of Englishness, the West Indies has found its only true political framework and the means, explored in the sequence of poems celebrating Brian Lara's feats of 1994, to overturn symbolically the centuries of enslavement and colonialism.

Stewart Brown writes in the Longman Caribbean New Voices 1, 'Fergus is a poet of real stature'. 

Edgar Othniel Lake writes in The Caribbean Writer: 'Fergus reaches his peak with fine poems dedicated to his friends, none among them as penetrating as Timo. A larger-than-life character, Timo is good from the heart and generous to the bone. This archetypal character is fast disappearing, and Fergus reminds us through a last bedside visit. But he does something else that rings true. He captures Timo’s essentially nativist language, the lingua franca of the praise-song; this poem is no wooden obituary. Far beyond the mythic spectator fields of Lord’s and mythic Elysium, we applaud Fergus on this second stride to the wicket. His first poetic volume, ""Allioguana,"" rightfully alluded to the rich incantatory Amerindian legacy of this island.

A mature poet, Howard A. Fergus is caught playing in familiar themes far afield.'

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Howard Fergus

Sir Howard A. Fergus was born at Long Ground in Montserrat. He attended Bethel Primary, Montserrat Grammar School, Erdiston Teacher’s College in Barbados, the University College of the West Indies (1961-64) and the Universities of Bristol (Cert Ed. 1968) and Manchester (M.Ed, 1978) and UWI (Ph. D, 1978).

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