2014 Launch Speech

I am quite sure the main reason I was asked to launch the Creative Connections exhibition this year, is because two or three years ago I abbreviated my biography for the anthology to simply say “Amanda Joy is a poet and gardener from the Kimberley region, based in Fremantle. Creative Connections is one of her favourite poetry events of the year, every year” So I feel, the best way to open this exhibition and launch this beautiful anthology, with its wild riches of artwork and poetry, would be to simply say why I love this event, which is the culmination of an enormous collective effort and deep grace of so many individuals.

In 2009 Robert Adamson chose to introduce The Best of Australian Poems anthology with a line from a poem by W.B Yeats: “Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing” In words which resonated for me years, he went on to discuss the ways in which he felt, not only the contemporary poets sang to each other through the poems in the collection, but so many poems are singing to those long past in our collective history He concluded that “the poets sing to each other and their poems set words dancing in our souls.” This to me is the crux of the joy! know myself and so many other participating poets feel when our small part in Creative Connections rolls around each year When I open my emails and see the vivid colours and read the artist biographies full of words like “I really enjoyed making this artwork” “fun” “I laugh” “the more mess I make the more fun I have” I feel my heart swing open wide and I allow the artwork to, in Adamson’s words “dance inside me” I know I drop some of my own self- consciousness and my words will “sing” in response. He ends that introduction by answering a question he is often asked as to why there are so many poems written about birds. His theory being that “we miss having poets among us who can imagine a soul can ‘clap its hands and sing louder sing’ That we need to acknowledge visitations by intense psychological experiences, and that birds are the closest things we have, more or less, to angels” I know for myself every year, as I sit with the artworks, I am more than likely to have a bird or two wing its way into the poems.

I have had my copy of the anthology for over a week now and I can say that, to my mind, this year, the collection has soared to a new height. You can feel the freedom the poets have opened themselves up to, their courage, (remembering the origins of the word courage are found in the French “le couer” or heart.) You can sense the held breath in pure suspension as they sat with the artist’s works, the attention breathed all over each poem as they exhale with joy as the words finally come, as they respond to the creative power of the artist’s visual expression. The will to capture in some way, a precarious and fleeting glimpse into another’s perceptions. Each year it feels to me a gift given and received.

Although I was reluctant to read from the poems, lest the poet then have to stand up and read them all over again. I thought here I would place a tiny excerpt from Veronica Lake’s poem Kimono Silk, written in response to a beautiful painting by Lisa Coles, because it moved me deeply as a metonym for the whole. Veronica writes—

“Each one a cup of light
offered to the sun,
peeping skyward
from beneath dark waters”

So it is with deep gratitude that, in a time where we are being lectured on the need for austerity by politicians intent on feathering the nests of the wealthy, while diminishing the quality of life of the most vulnerable in our community, I can stand here in amazement and speak those words of W. B. Yeats— “soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing” to all of you here. Congratulations to the artists, organisers and poets on such a fine exhibition. Now officially launched. I hope the art and words will sing and dance in the hearts of many.

Amanda Joy,  Poet