Thanks to all who turned out last night, which proved a fascinating evening of performances from three Red Squirrel protégés – Nikki Magennis, William Bonar, and Colin Will.
Nikki’s delicate perceptions drew us close; the subjects of her work spanned Italian POWs, the nude figure of a canvas speaking forth, and Victorian Glasgow in all her finery (unseeing of the slave labour shoring her wealth). To end, Nikki offered the title poem of her collection – Meeting Buddha in Dumbarton (in which supermarket-shelf materialism contrasts starkly with spiritual contemplation).
Over the years, William’s output has acquired increasingly greater economy; to counterbalance this, he also read from selected earlier works (that we might glimpse his oeuvre in the round). Minute observations of scaffolders and “catafalque clouds” coaxed the ear, before the startling innovation of some centuries old fireplace tiles acquiring the sentience and voice to comment on their ephemeral, human owners. William concluded with a quintet, which took Johannesburg as its vantage; sighting the numerous societal layers stacked in a city rankled by fear and inequality.
Colin is a seasoned performer and erstwhile owner of Calder Wood Press, whom Sheila Wakefield (Red Squirrel founder) openly desires to marry if ever his wife should tire of him(!). Although reading into the unknown from his latest collection, the sense was of an intimate friend speaking kindly and spontaneously in one’s ear. Colin’s new work adopts the lesser known style of renga (of which, Bashō is a prime exponent); this Japanese prose form is marked by its parsimony, and concludes each chapter with a haiku – almost as an entry in a traveller’s journal.
And this was indeed the effect, with Colin taking the audience – in his amiable company – from the Great Wall of China, to the sugar-loaf peak of Suilven, before Saint Petersburg and the return to China’s Tiananmen Square. Most affecting of all was Colin’s depiction of his mother’s dignified dying, which entrusted all emotion to the listener; such is the faith of a master craftsman.