On Wednesday 12th October, the Scottish Writers’ Centre welcomed Red Squirrel Press once again with fantastic results! The Club Room was filled with an extraordinary amount of talent with four writers gracing us with readings from their brand new publications.
Red Squirrel Press is an independent publisher based in Northumberland. Founded in April 2006 by editor Sheila Wakefield, Red Squirrel Press has published over 130 titles to date, with many more poetry collections and pamphlets currently in production.
The night consisted of a diverse range of readings from Hazel Buchann Cameron’s Cutting Letters, David Costello’s No Need for Candles, Graham Fulton’s Brian Wilson in Swansea Bus Station and Angela Topping’s The Five Petals Of Elderflower.
To begin with, Hazel Buchan Cameron offered us an astute reading from her collection, the first of which was based on her personal experiences with her children. Her poem Aim to Fail, which is dedicated to her son and his wife, explores the concept of living life to the fullest; Hazel encourages them to do precisely what the poem’s title suggests: simply aim to fail. The honest sentiment and gentle encouragement within her poem is something to which we can all relate, especially as writers. At one point she voices: ‘Don’t be content with mediocrity, take a hit – be the one who never made it’, a statement which makes it evident that one should never fear failure but embrace it in order to achieve and be the best version of yourself.
Secondly, David Costello offered us some beautifully crafted sentimental readings surrounding death, loss and grief. His pamphlet No Need for Candles was dedicated to his father, whom he lost this year, and it explores the inevitable sorrows of life, death and losing those you love. David uses the motif of a candle in this poem to represent the candle that he lit in a church following his father’s death, as well as signifying the candle’s bright light as a metaphorical measure of time. He ends his poem Candlelight by acknowledging death as the final resort: ‘so even in death he no longer needed a candle to see’.
In the second half of the event, Graham Fulton proved to be a compelling shift in poetic direction. His poems carried both witty humour and powerful deliverance, making them a crowd pleaser that evoked both laughter and surprise. Graham’s first poem, in addition to being the title of his collection Brian Wilson In Swansea Bus Station told the story of how he was convinced that he encountered the iconic Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys in Swansea Bus Station. Describing him as being ‘cunningly disguised as a Welsh bus driver’ whilst also being as graceful as ‘a Malibu surfer riding the waves’, there were no doubts in the room that Fulton is a true comedian at heart. His wit shines clearly through his poetry and undoubtedly showcases his love for Brian Wilson.
Last but by no means least was Angela Topping closing the show with what she described as a ‘symphony of five poems’, indicative of the five petals of which an elderflower is composed. As Angela read the title poem The Five Petals of Elderflower, her soft, dreamy voice mirrored the beauty and serenity that characterises her poetry: ‘you’re at one with lace. Sleep now, as in fresh sheets, soothed by the sun, head in blossom, a perfumed lullaby.’
Overall, this event fully encompassed the complexity and diversity of poetry. As an audience, we were captivated and enthused by the diversity of the poets, and there’s no denying that each performer brought something special and different to the stage.
Words by Simranjeet Aulakh