Tag Archives: Brotherhood of the Wordless

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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Big Days Ahead: Radiohead / Air for the Birds

Two massive events are on my doorstep!

Tomorrow night, Jules and I are off to see Radiohead, which has a wonderfully cyclic feeling to it, as we were both in the audience last time they played Brisbane in 1998 (Festival Hall how I miss you). For any of you who were there, Jules was the girl at the front of the stage who was handed Thom Yorke’s shirt. Seems like yesterday…

Click on the image below to watch the band playing live at Coachella in HD. The full set!!! Roll on Friday…

And then I have the honour of launching The Brotherhood of the Wordless’s new dual collection, ‘Air for the Birds / Big Thoughts from the Frightened Well’ on Saturday afternoon at State Library of QLD.

If you don’t already have the details, here they are… if you are in town, this is an event you don’t want to miss!

Brotherhood of the Wordless
Sat 10 Nov, 4pm | State Library of Queensland
Free, bookings slq.eventbrite.com 3840 7768

Join the Brotherhood of the Wordless and performance poet David “Ghostboy” Stavanger, as they celebrate the launch of their doubled-sided collection of poetry: Air for the Birds / Big Thoughts from the Frightened Well.

The Brotherhood is made up of writers with autism and other disabilities that preclude speech or the muscle ability required to use keyboards or pens. Through facilitated communication, the Brotherhood work with trusted scribes to bring their powerful thoughts and words to life. This collection (edited by David Stavanger) sees the Brotherhood collate selections of work from their first two acclaimed poetry shows created with Ghostboy, as well as a few new pieces as well.

Witness the Brotherhood take to the stage, performing samples of their work accompanied by Richard Grantham (Deep Blue Orchestra / Ghostboy with Golden Virtues) on viola, loops and keys. The launch will also feature a special guest performance by ACT’s bohemian playwright and gypsy slam champion Adam Hadley (Mr Fibby).

Air for the Birds / Big Thoughts from the Frightened Well will be available for purchase at the event, and has been created with the financial support of the Jupiters Casino Community Benefit Fund.


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Air for the Birds pt II – poems by Glen Sheppard and Mike Russell

          by Glen Sheppard

I stand tall and proud, looking down over the ages
Don’t know the wonders I have seen
Many people worship me  / but the truth is I’m just a piece of work.

Groups adore me, that confuses me because I’m a piece of wood.
Somebody lovingly carves me into a head, but I am still just a piece of wood.
It’s great to be adored when your disguised / dressed up as a piece of wood.

It tells how we can get conned.

Dress me up / adore me
I’m still just a piece of wood.



Autism Dreaming
          by Mike Russell

It’s only a little space / Somewhere in between waking and sleeping

somewhere in the little moment  / between eating and drinking

I try a little space between walking and rocking.

A minute into space between sneaking and freaking / a molecular moment between trying and doing

but somewhere in there is a controlling dream that keeps us alive

… Autism dreaming…


Filed under poetry & publishing

Air for the Birds – Ghostboy & the Brotherhood of the Wordless

If you don’t already have it marked in bright red (or whatever colour takes your fancy) on your 2010 calendar, then grab said pen and mark Saturday January 30, as the day you head across to State Library of QLD to experience Air for the Birds.

Air for the Birds is an inspiring spoken word event, combining the talents of some of Australia’s most well-known performance poets and one of the country’s most unique writing collectives, the Brotherhood of the Wordless. The Brotherhood of the Wordless is comprised of fourteen South-East Queensland writers with autism and other disabilities that preclude speech or the muscle ability required to use keyboards or writing implements. Using the technique of facilitated communication, the Brotherhood works with trusted scribes to bring their powerful thoughts and words to life. The Brotherhood of the Wordless have published a book of collected writing, “Tapping on the Heart of the World”, now in its third reprint. They have featured on ABC Radio National, the Brisbane Writers Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, and members have preformed at the Woodford Folk Festival to a standing ovation.
Working with their facilitators and one of Australia’s premier performance poets, Ghostboy,  the Brotherhood of the Wordless will present performance based texts and poems they have written over the past year with Ghostboy entitled Air for the Birds.  Air for the Birds covers the themes of fantasy and dreams, the face of the “other”, and the voices of the everyday objects central to these writer’s lives.

I recently had the chance to interview Ghostboy and several members of the Brotherhood of the Wordless, to get an insight into the collaboration.

Peter Rowe and Peter Brown with one of the BOW facilitators

Air for the Birds is such a great title for the show; air and breath being such important elements in both the performance and writing of poetry. Tell us about the title’s significance and how it came to life.
Ghostboy: The line is from one of the shows central poems by Peter Rowe – I felt it really summed up the collaboration, the process around their writing with me, and the degree of their dreams and ambitions… and all the guys agreed!

Glenn: it represents freedom of expression, like flying / spreading wings

Lucy: the expectations of flying is so precious to me. the lost capacity of speech is tragic & the need for speech breath is basically not there for us.

Sam P: Freedom.

Peter B: Enjoyment!

Peter R: freedom of expression and the thought of movement / something we do so naturally but so essential to my words

Adrian: freedom! our poetry is like clean air, cleansing our souls.

I was reading an essay by Diane di Prima recently and she was saying that what we are is nothing but a physical instrument, not much different to a musical instrument in some ways and that creation comes only out of changes in the physical instrument. Tell us about how the unique ‘physical instruments’ of this show came together and the creative process involved in developing Air for the Birds?
Ghostboy: The writers wanted to give you some sample lines from their object poems about their facilitation boards & physical environs  – as they are so central to their creative process – to answer this one:
chair takes me places  – Adrian

My chair is my life / It comforts me / It’s chocolate and leather / just for me  – Mike R

Chair / Flat in my legs

And yet a cube in my sign  – Lucy

Straining at the loo / I can’t let this go  – Geoff

the Communication Board feels like my lover

I’m full of gratitude and respect / my beautiful God given board / my life, hope and future    – Glenn

My Board / My true love / my fun time / my friend / my everything. 

You are to me / what air is to a bird.  – Peter R

What have been the highlights of the collaboration?
Sam R: So much fun working with Ghostboy, have really loved being part of this.

Mike: The enthusiasm Ghostboy brought to the sessions has been very inspiring, it has brought new life and energy to my words.

Peter R: This project has brought another level to my work

Peter B: Ghostboy and “air for the birds” ROCK!

Ghostboy: The Brotherhoods creative drive being one of need not ego; the efficiency of their language set against their unbridled energy and spark as physical beings; their ability to direct their own work in terms of the voice required by others reading it; their self-belief as artists – huge!

Finally, what can the audience expect from the show?
Peter B: The audience will be gobsmacked. awestruck, overwhelmed and flabbergasted!!!

Sam P: It will change the way people think about us – both us writers and human beings

Glenn: it will bring further understanding about the autistic world.

Peter R: It will bring another message that we are artistic – not just autistic- and clever.

Mike R: This is a space for us to express ourselves in the outside world.

Rodney: They will see us as poets being part of the most mind blowing dazzling spectacle of fun. fearlessness, and fucking awesome poetry!

The State Library performance will be accompanied by ouTsideRs artists including musician and poet Suzanne Jones (keyboard); renowned avant garde musician Bremen Town Musician (violin), and ouTsideRs award winning spoken word artists Pascalle Burton and Tessa Leon.
Air for the Birds is Presented by the State Library of Queensland, ouTsideRs aRT Inc and Brotherhood of the Wordless.
When                    4pm, Sat 30 Jan
Where                   slq Auditorium 1, level 2
Tickets                 Free, no bookings required
Please note this performance contains some adult themes and is best suited to people aged 16 and over.
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Filed under events & opportunities, interviews/artist profiles