Writers spend years developing their craft in the hope that, at some point, they will achieve something spectacular; the communication of a story, a feeling, an idea to another human being.
It is fitting, therefore, that the launch of Northwords Now Issue 31 last Monday, 18th April, doubled as a celebration of Angus Dunn (1953-2015), whose poetry “was marvellous at making connections”. These connections did not simply exist in the abstract, as current NN editor Chris Powici was keen to point out. No, they existed “in the man himself…he brought people together.”
In tribute to Angus’ many gifts, each reader for the evening was someone who had known Angus personally, and could testify to his passion for his work, the natural world, and his precise manner. As Powici wryly surmised, “To know Angus was to be corrected by Angus.”
Having each composed a poem in his memory which appeared in the Spring Issue, the readers shared this first, followed by a personal favourite from Angus’ collection High Country.
First up was Moira Forsyth, reading her poem “Everything in the Garden is Frozen”, inspired by Angus’ “Solitary”.
Next, Anne MacLeod read “the shape of the river”, paired with his poem “Stealing”, within which comes the poignant advice ‘carry fire lightly, lightly’.
Following Anne, Cynthia Rogerson fondly acknowledged the huge influence Angus had on her writing before reading her dedication, “Angus”, accompanied by his poem “Stealing Away”.
Peter Whiteley’s dedication “Writers” highlighted Angus’ importance to the Highland literary scene as a whole, with his choice of Angus’ “Moon Return”, reminding those who feel the weight of his absence to see the ‘moon-shadows/ in the footsteps I have left/ along the shore’.
Not one to be left out, Angus made his presence felt through a selection of audio recordings that captured the man himself reading some of his own poems: “Stealing”, “Source”, “Leaving Dores”, and “Living in the Bothy”.
To finish the evening, Ian Stephen first read Angus’ “High Country”, followed by his own work “Huon Pine”, before continuing to read from his upcoming collected poems.
Launches and readings are integral parts of the writing process- they give a writer the opportunity to connect with people, to turn communication into conversation. Having not had the pleasure of knowing Angus personally, it was clear to see from the gathered crowd, through their finely-wrought verse, heart-felt sentiments and abundance of stories, that he was a man who created connections, both in poetry and between people, that will hold for a long time to come.