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Gus Ferguson Receives the English Academy's Gold Medal (Video)

Gus Ferguson and Barbara Basel

Publisher and poet HM ‘Gus’ Ferguson was honoured by the SA English Academy yesterday, which bestowed upon him its highest accolade, the gold medal for services to English, at an evening ceremony at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town.

Academy representative Barbara Basel opened the proceedings with a summary of the organisation’s history and mission – it was founded in 1961 – then read the citation that accompanies the award. “A distinguished poet and cartoonist in his own right,” it began, “a Scottish-born naturalised South African, nominated on the grounds of conspicuous service to English over many years…” The citation mentioned most of Ferguson’s many publishing projects, including the journals Slug News and Carapace and the imprints Snailpress, Firfield Press, Carapace Poets and the Unpublished Manuscript Press – all run from his home in Plumstead (a fact that garnered his wife, Nicky, a strong round of applause) – as well as a number of imprints that Ferguson has collaborated with over the years, including Kwela, Umuzi, Hippogryph and many others.

Basel pointed out that more than 80 poets have been published through Snailpress alone, and countless others through Carapace and Ferguson’s other projects. Publishing poetry is not a lucrative business, she said: Ferguson serves for reasons “other than the hope of gain”. Without his “inspirational contribution, South African poetry in English and South African poets would not be where they are today”. Hear, hear.

The three poets who nominated Ferguson for the award then took the podium by turns to read in his honour. Hugh Hodge read selections from his favourite Snailpress books, including the recently-published Imprendehora by Yvette Christiansë (co-published with Kwela); Geoffrey Haresnape read several poems centred on a slug/snail trope; and Ken Barris read a few of his own poems that were published by Ferguson.

The guest of honour then rose to receive his award. Ferguson gave a touching speech that opened with a joke with characteristically self-deprecatory undertones: “When Robert Graves was asked whether there was any money in poetry, he replied, ‘No, but there’s not much poetry in money either,’” he began.

Here’s Gus Ferguson on receiving the English Academy’s gold medal:

Video: Gus Ferguson’s acceptance speech

YouTube Preview Image

Heartiest congratulations to Gus: truly, no one deserves it more. Here he is with a sizeable number of Ferguson-clan representatives, who came, along with many others, to cheer him on:

The Fergusons

Following Ferguson’s speech, the Academy awarded its Percy FitzPatrick prize for youth literature to Darrel Bristow-Bovey: click here for the coverage.

Further snaps:

Barbara Basel Hugh Hodge Geoffrey Haresnape Ken Barris Gus Ferguson and Barbara Basel Barbara Basel, Nicky Ferguson, Gus Ferguson, Darrel Bristow-Bovey Mrs Bristow-Bovey Gus Ferguson, Geoffrey Haresnape, Barbara Basel, Ken Barris, Hugh Hodge Gus Ferguson


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Tania</a>
    August 13th, 2009 @11:13 #

    Hooray for Gus! He truly is a hero-- of mine and many others.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    August 13th, 2009 @11:55 #

    Hoorays seconded. Gus's kindness and lack of airs helped usher me into a writing career. He was the only person to speak to me at some poetry gathering at Wits when I was a nervous student, and he published some of my early poems with kind, hand-written comments on the submissions.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    August 13th, 2009 @12:47 #

    As I've said before: Yay!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    August 13th, 2009 @17:03 #

    Congratulations Gus! Well done to the English Academy for recognising his work.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    August 13th, 2009 @17:16 #

    The recognition is long overdue. Congratulations, Gus! I can relate to Louis' experience - Gus published my early work - as far back as fifteen years ago, now that I check. Remember Slugnews? :-)

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 13th, 2009 @18:22 #

    I'm the proud owner of a complete Slugnews set. There's gold in there!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    August 13th, 2009 @22:25 #

    Indeed, there's gold in them thar... appreciate as they appreciate.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    September 27th, 2009 @14:29 #

    Dearest Gus. No-one more deserving of this honour. If not for his prompting and encouragement, my poems would still be languishing in a secret drawer. I envy you that set of Slugnews, Ben-E!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Amitabh</a>
    September 27th, 2009 @23:16 #

    Heartiest Congratulations Gus
    I have nearly all your poetry collection


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