Arse Poetica is a collection of gently satirical poems and cartoons that take a wryly-mocking view of the often egocentric world of poets and poetry. The author is himself a poet and, more importantly, a prominent South African poetry publisher - this gives the collection a sly self-deprecating edge. Gus Ferguson is well known as a subtle and surprising humorist. His work in this collection contains witty references to other writers and poets, including J M Coetzee, e e cummings, William Blake, William Carlos Williams, Basho, Bob Dylan, James Joyce, Roy Campbell, Fernando Pessoa and Breyten Breytenbach. Despite their often erudite references the poems are widely accessible as the wit is enhanced by its cultural connections but not dependent on them. The cartoons though Thurberesque in style, bite a bit harder than the poems. He has had three sell-out exhibitions of his cartoons and drawings and has illustrated or written three children's books. Gus Ferguson's verse and cartoons have been widely anthologised, quoted and stuck on refrigerator doors.
And in a country where light verse is traditionally seen as merely silly or trivial, he enjoys a rather special reputation as a serious poet, as always, behind the fun, lurks the metaphysical and melancholic.