Of the Forest
by Linda Ferguson
Second Place Winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize, 2021
A story of three siblings, a spouse and a surname, Of the Forest is threaded with poems that hint of danger while also celebrating love…and the sumptuous pleasures of language itself.
The collection reimagines childhood as a journey through a forest where two brothers are, respectively, a wolf and a bear, and their younger sister (their sometimes prey), is someone who society wants to be a “pink balloon,/ a party decoration.” By living in a “womb of imagination,” she transforms herself into a fox whose “topaz eyes glow through fronds/of metaphor and ink.”
When the fox leaves the forest of childhood she revels in her new terrain. Now, with “words unsheathed,” she wonders if she’ll ever “howl in the presence of bears and wolves,” while she still dreams of a world where all creatures can astonish themselves “with unimagined flowering.”
Along the way, the poems ask where does memory end and imagination begin, what power does a name hold over us, and how can we use language to find understanding, humor and grace.
About the Author
Linda Ferguson started her career writing software how-to manuals before she even owned a computer. She also worked as a copywriter and journalist until she became hooked on reading, writing and performing poetry when she saw Naomi Shihab Nye, Lucille Clifton and Jimmy Santiago Baca in the Bill Moyers program The Language of Life. Here it was, she realized: a tool to say the unsayable while savoring the pleasure of piecing together intricate word puzzles.
As a passionate community-builder, she teaches affordable creative writing classes for adults and children. Based on her belief that artistic expression should be available to everyone regardless of income or experience, she creates a warm, friendly atmosphere where students are free to delve into imagination and memory to find their voice while relishing the camaraderie of their fellow writers.
A four-time Pushcart nominee, Ferguson is also a writer of fiction and essays. Her first chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press, and her collection of feminist persona poetry, Not Me: Poems About Other Women, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in fall 2022.
She’s also an amateur dancer who loves to draw, paint, and shoot the breeze with her husband and their grown children.
Early Praise for Of the Forest:
From DeForest, her family name, Linda Ferguson provides the ground on which she weaves magic from the ordinary into the extraordinary: her birth where she is already a child of the forest, unfurling, two brothers of different dispositions, one a wolf, the other a bear cub, the love of her husband who made the outside world bloom, and creation of their two children spun from the straw of our genes.
Demonstrating her mastery of metaphor, a cinnamon tree stump becomes a small bear becomes a brother she calls Hansel, the other, more troublesome brother, Johann, becomes a blue-eyed wolf—slinking bones and a cold, faded coat, while she emerges as a fox with topaz eyes [that] glow through fronds of metaphor and ink.
Though she tells us this is a simple suburban story, every poem in this collection is a jewel, obscured by a diaphanous curtain of imagination, beckoning us to look behind. Her word play imagines her name “to be the petal of a red, red rose” or to remain nameless “ready to plunge … into new wet worlds. The chapbook is a delight to read; one can almost hear the forest sing.
—Judith Armatta, author of Twilight of Impunity
Of the Forest elegantly immerses us in a deceptively simple suburban story that can be heard/ in the whisper of birch leaves. I fell in love with this narrative, and I am so invested by the last poem, which calls us all to be the honey, the chemical/ reaction between nectar, enzymes and evaporation, that I swoon with admiration and adoration for the eloquence of the collection.
—Rebecca Smolen, author of Excoriation and Womanhood and Other Scars
Let’s join Linda Ferguson in childhood’s deep, dark woods. The poems in Of the Forest are strong and haunting. You will be glad to know that no one was hurt in the making of this most engaging book of poetry. Suburbia flowers, sprinklers rainbow and birch trees whisper. There are butterflies but there are bee stings too. The forest is filled with moss and mystery. Linda begins her foray in her mother’s arms—her mother smells of ether and pressed cotton. In this exploration of childhood and adolescence, there are two brothers along for the journey. The brown-eyed brother wants to shock our poet. “Look! There is a bear!” But she would rather rest her cheek against the bear’s side. The three siblings are a wolf, a younger bear, and a fox poet. But because the forest is real, the wolf is a threat. As our heroine matures, she becomes a force filled with desire. She marries and writes love poems to her Scottish husband, her life filled with the green tips of possibility.
—Dale Champlin, author of The Barbie Diaries and Callie Comes of Age