Stars walk amongst us…
If there is one thing I love about walking on this particular path in life, it is the truly shining people who have come into my life and become truly dear friends. One of them, Anne Casey, is indeed a bright star rising high in the poetic world – and I was very honoured to be asked to launched Anne’s new collection, ‘out of emptied cups’, in Melbourne this week.
Anyone who knows me well will also know how much I fear public speaking – but the years (and those PhD presentations when my supervisors had to remind me to breathe) have ‘taught me to feel the fear, and do it anyway’. Because Anne is a very loved friend, all the fear came surging back. I just wanted to launch Anne’s in all the ways it deserved.
Well, the launch happened on Wednesday, and I am relieved and delighted to write Anne was happy with my speech. She asked if I would consider publishing it. So here it is – my launch speech for ‘out of emptied cups’.
I want to begin by saying how honoured I am to be standing here to launch Anne’s brilliant second collection of poetry, ‘out of emptied cups’. I find myself wishing I had her lovely Irish accent to do it – but I promise you will enjoy Anne’s accent very soon.
I feel blessed to call Anne my friend – and so fortunate to have my own creative soul fed by now two of her collections. I regard her as my poet mentor – and it is due to her encouragement I now call myself a poet. I was never brave enough to do that before I met Anne – and I thank her for it. But Anne is no longer on the foothills of this climb, like I am, but a shining light high above me on this poetic mountain of creation. Her light is so bright that it lights my way forward in my own climb.
‘out of emptied cups’ is a truly beautiful book – one which embodies Anne’s heart and soul. Reading it, I found myself thinking many things about poetry. Why poetry speaks to us – why poetry is vital for our human existence. Writing poetry helps us to know the shape of words, their strengths, the hues of their meanings, how we can fit them into architecture of language and construct those important bridges of empathy. Anne knows how to do this – seemingly effortlessly.For me, on every page of this work, Anne’s very flesh seemed transformed into words. One other thing I thought about when reading Anne’s collection. Knowing Anne’s proud Irish psyche, I wondered about the Irish – and their timeless love affair with verse. As an Australian, I must admit these thoughts aroused moments of envy about the value Ireland places on their poets and writers. I believe we should gauge the heath of society by society’s appreciation of the arts. Poetry beats humanity’s heartbeat – it has from the beginning of time. Alas, the current narratives steering Australia often seems to forget this.
I wrote in my review of ‘out of emptied cups’ how Anne’s first collection, where the lost things go, had left me in awe of the power of her words and the perfection of her poetry. I felt exactly the same about ‘out of emptied cups’. Reading it, borrowing words from one of Anne’s poems in this collection, is‘To drink deeply of this one precious cup and find meaning in the traces of what remains’. But I am not the only reader/reviewer who came away from this work deepened and inspired by Anne’s poems.
Magdalena Ball describes ‘out of emptied cups’ as agorgeous rich collection; powerful and uplifting. Another reviewer writes Anne’s ‘award-winning poems ‘stagger at the weight the soul must bear’ and the review in the Irish Times speaks of Anne’s passion, and range of these poems which are “infused with intense heat and Australian flora and fauna”.
Women will recognise the world they face and must surmount everyday in so many of the poems in this work. The poems are indeed cups – or sacred chalices of what it is to be a woman in this world. Sacred because each poem throbs with truth.
T.S. Eliot once observed poems are “a raid on the inarticulate”. Anne’s poems articulates for women everywhere the silences imposed on us by our gender – how society wants to shape us into its idea of womanhood, when all the time we just want to breathe and be. To be what women should be – to be whole, to be our true selves – unfettered by the shackles imposed by culture – and over two thousand years and more of a male dominated world. Anne writes of women’s collective courage in this book:
Leaving behind nights of secrets and dread, I rise.
Into a daybreak that’s flushed fulsome red, I rise.
Bringing the rage that my fine sisters gave,
I am the cry and the call of the brave.
I rise, I rise, I rise.
I live in hope countless men will read this work – men who also yearn to rewrite the current master narratives which have led to our sick world, wounding both female and male. A world where women are killed by men they love or have loved because these men do not understand love has nothing to do with possession, or think love means ownership.
James Dickey once said, ‘A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning’. I take that as meaning a poet is someone brave enough to really live – in all the ways meaningful. A poet who desires truth to flame every word they write. Anne’s poetry blazes with truth, reaching out to the reader’s heart. Her poems display not only her great skill as a poet, a poet who experiments with rhyme and meter – and pictorial poems that bring home and inscribe the meaning of her poems, but also her courage.
Yes. ‘out of emptied cups’ is a truly courageous and beautiful body of work. It is a work powerfully evoking the words of the another woman poet: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’. Anne’s truth confronts us in this work, and challenges us to gaze through her eyes. Her words build a bridge of understanding, and demonstrates how poetry is the essence of the human voice.
Creativity is the essence of our beings, and writing poetry is one of the many ways we tap into our creativity. I believe by embracing creativity that we join the catalyst for change, renewal, growth, where we map out and explore places that make the difference between lives lived well or not at all. Writing a poem is akin to rebirth, like
Shelley writes in his Ode to the West Wind:
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Casey’s poems hold out light to the reader – light of rebirth, of renewal, of the challenge to live our true lives. They speak her truth, a woman’s truth, the truth we all need to listen to, if we want the world to change. They are indeed the cry and call of the brave.
I am proud to call this work now launched in Melbourne.