Brotherhood of the Wordless: Launch Speech

Yesterday’s gig redefined ‘uplifting’. Seeing the Brotherhood on stage is transformative… so the opportunity to launch their latest collection, Air for the Birds / Big Thoughts From the Frightened Well was truly an  honour. Here’s what I had to say…


 Launch Speech: Air for the Birds / Big Thoughts from the Frightened Well

In writing this launch speech, I found myself pondering a question that has stayed with me since I first heard it posed in the song ‘Devils Tongue’ by Australian band, Big Heavy Stuff, more than a decade ago. That question,

‘Will you drown if you’re perfect?’

Thankfully, as my family has always reassured me, I am far from it, perfect, that is, so am able to stand here today, head above water, trusted with the great honour of launching the dual collection, Air for the Birds / Big Thoughts from the Frightened Well.

Perfection as a concept has great weight. Quite possibly, as the song questions, weight enough to drown us. For all of us here today, we can be thankful for our imperfections, as it is these attributes – our quirks, our idiosyncrasies – that make us unique. And today we are in the presence of a truly unique group of writers, The Brotherhood of the Wordless.

A group of writers, who, without speech or the muscle coordination required for handwriting or unassisted use of a keyboard, have found a voice that is both profound and powerful.

The writers that make up ‘The Brotherhood’ are extraordinarily attuned to the hidden and intimate details of the world, which they reveal in ways that are vulnerable and sensuous, tactile and true. They capture moments of mystery and beauty and (as is the job of poetry), they restore our vision to let us see the world anew.

The poems in this collection revel in the magic of the everyday. We experience:

–    dandelion flowers bursting into summer noise
–    waves coming into shore like jam
–    the auditory taste / not red / but tomatoes in the mouth
–    limitless boundless light
–    wrinkled flabby guts going two for the price of one
–    the fire engine, beetroot full of fluid and colon

These images both arrest the reader and welcome them into the moment. There is indeed, a sense of generosity and inclusiveness in these poems, a sense of warmth, life & freedom.

Together we experience many epiphanic moments.

the day of the words
and the words sang and the words
blew on the sails of my boat
off I went on my journey to universe.

(Michael Russell)

I am in the last faze of time / in this body.

(Peter Rowe)

Learn sight from our touch.
We are the tentacles of thought.

(Lucy Blackman)

And if we too, are willing to open ourselves, these moments change us.

I have experienced the joy of The Brotherhood on stage and on the page and know what it means to be moved by their words.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge the editorial and curatorial work of David Stavanger, who has worked with and championed the work of The Brotherhood of the Wordless since 2009. David has played a vital role in both the publication of this book and the production of today’s performance.

Today, there will be no drowning, no fear of perfection. Today is a day for celebrating what is a remarkable collection of poems. So open your hearts and join me in welcoming The Brotherhood of the Wordless and David Stavanger to the stage.


Find out more about The Brotherhood of the Wordless and pick up a copy of their books and DVD’s here.


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