Streaking in Tongues has made a name for themselves as an unique indie act. The musical father and son duo, Ronnie and Elliot Ferguson, have written and recorded several albums over the last six years carving out a niche for themselves thanks to the intelligent musicianship, willingness to take chances, and the clarity of their shared artistic vision. Their teaming with Upper Peninsula Poet Laurate Marty Achatz for the collection Slow Dancing with Bigfoot is a gem. It has a strong Michigan flavor given the individual’s close ties to the state and the nature of the work but this synthesis of poetry and music is far more successful than skeptics may give it credit for.
Anyone expecting a pretentious exhibition of purple verse with slapdash musical backing will be surprised. The album opener “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Bigfoot” demonstrates how well the Fergusons understand the overall mood of Achatz’s work. These poems are meditative yet not insular; Achatz’s Bigfoot is not the Sasquatch of 1970’s B-movies or documentary. His Bigfoot is a flesh and blood man of the modern world and thrust into several seemingly improbable scenarios. The first poem provides the work with a quasi-thesis or introduction of sorts setting the stage for all that comes after.
“Lady Bigfoot Kept Him in Her Cave” highlights the delicate balance a writer must maintain between style and affectation. His avoidance of common articles such as “a” or “the” will be heard as trimming unnecessary fat for some while others may be thrown off a little by the absence of such words; it will often boil down to your past experience reading/hearing poetry, but some will undoubtedly crave a more natural conversational diction.
His reading transforms these poems though it is difficult to say exactly how. I am not experiencing them for the first time on the printed page, but it is instructive to recall that poetry’s beginnings were not the printing press, but exclusively oral. Achatz has a likable personality coming through even during the collection’s downbeat moments and cool relaxed confidence pervades the fifteen tracks.
ABOUT MARTIN ACHATZ: https://www.facebook.com/people/Martin-Achatz/100014667936243/
Another of the finest works included on this release is “Bigfoot and Jim Harrison Skinny Dip in Morgan Pool on Father’s Day”. The strong regional mood of the work continues with this, the album’s longest track, and a collaboration between all three. Achatz maintains a layered mood with the poem – there is a comedic aspect, but there are moments of melancholy and affection vying for listener’s attention as well. Wide-eyed wonder has a seat at the table as well.
“Bigfoot Meets a Homeless Man on Presque Isle” could scarcely be more unadorned. One way of viewing these poems is autobiographically. If you see Bigfoot as an inflated, never literal, stand-in for Achatz, you open up a whole new way of hearing these works. This is one. His similes are uniformly strong throughout Slow Dancing with Bigfoot, but they are especially potent here and the Ferguson’s musical backing hinges on a riff that gives the track a slightly ominous tilt.
Another beautifully simple guitar melody guides “Slow Dancing with Bigfoot in Greenwich” and Achatz, once again, intersperses significant detail with a strong sense of place. His talent for invoking a world in miniature through his verse distinguishes him from many other current practitioners of the form. His work engages individuals and the world around us rather than trafficking solely in emotion and ideas. This is a chief strength of the release. Achatz has found two individuals, the Fergusons, who can add dimensions to his poetry unavailable on the printed page. Let’s hope Slow Dancing with Bigfoot brings his work to a much wider audience than before.