Words: Patrick Griffin
‘Great thoughts are formed in silence’.
Those words accurately capture the essence of a brand new collection of poetry and prose, ‘Much More Than Words’, launched at the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny last Friday, at the beginning of Mental Health Week.
The above quotation, author unknown, was reflected by Olivia O’Leary, writer and broadcaster, in her introduction to the book. She repeated the words of novelist, playwright and author Roddy Doyle who, in his contribution to the book, said that “writers must be willing to sit for long periods. Being alone is a challenge.”
The venue for the book launch, the beautifully restored Butler Gallery and former 19th century almshouse, was a magnificent setting for the event. Indeed the wonderful display of Still Life paintings by Kilkenny-based artist Blaise Smith formed the perfect backdrop to the poems. Each of the paintings by this supremely talented artist act as records of our everyday world. The poems act as records of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and reactions to that same ‘everyday world’ in which we live and breathe.
Mayor Andrew McGuinness spoke about the importance of this book launch. He said that the aptly titled ‘Much More Than Words’ poetry collection delves deeply into the relationships we have between our friends, family and places. He said that the book highlighted how vitally essential it is for us to be more aware of others. He rightly claimed that for most of us, we can at times be so unaware of the issues going on in other peoples’ lives.
He was fulsome in his praise for the generosity of people who devote themselves to helping others. He praised the writers of the poems, pointing out that it takes courage to dig deep and understand more about ourselves and those around us. None of us, he pointed out, are free from some issues in our lives and our involvement with others, whether in our families or the wider mass of humanity.
Paul Clifford, co-ordinator Kilkenny Involvement Centre, spoke about the genesis of the book. He told us how a strong body of written work emerged from the support, encouragement and co-operation of a variety of writers from The Involvement Centre, The Recovery College and the wider community.
Dr. Mike Watts, who officially launched the book, described this multi-faceted miscellany of poetry as a ‘narrative medicine’. He posed this question to the audience: “How well do we understand mental health?”
While we were left pondering our own response to this complex question Dr. Watts referred to his own path to his own understanding of himself. He discussed ‘growth vs breakdown’.
And as a reference to the ‘Much More Than Words’ collection he expanded on the importance of the shared experiences which led to the compilation of this assembly of poems and prose.
“Our creative temperament,” he explained, “expresses itself through the arts. Poetry is a medium like water. Dull stones shimmer and shine as soon as they are immersed in water. The water reveals the hidden beauty of the stones. Likewise, words expressed through the medium of carefully crafted poetry, reveal fresh insights.”
“This book,” he concluded, “is about life lived and how we relate to it.”
Some of the contributors to ‘Much More Than Words’ read their poems and gave us a flavour of what the book has to offer.
The varied offerings in the collection, although diverse in their topics, cover love and loss, elation and sadness, childhood and old age, family, friendships and our world and all it has to offer.
Mary Woods, who represented The Recovery College, thanked all who had contributed to the book launch. To mark the event, Mary recited a poem which she had specially written for the occasion.
In conclusion, Ger Cody, who had kept the afternoon running smoothly, quoted words of the American writer and poet Brianna Wiest.
“If someone is falling behind in life, you don’t have to remind them. Believe me, they already know.
If someone is unhealthy they know.
If someone is failing at work, they know.
If someone is struggling in their relationship, with money, with self-image, they know.
It’s what consumes their thoughts each day.
What you need to do for those who are struggling is not to reprimand, but encourage.
Tell them what’s good about their lives; show them the potential that you see.
Love them where they are.
When we can’t see clearly for ourselves, we need others to speak greatness over us.
People don’t need you to tell them what’s wrong with their lives, they already know.
They need you to reassure them that they can still make it right.”
Copies of the publication, ‘Much More Than Words’, is available to purchase at The Book Centre on High Street, Khan’s Bookshop on James’s Street and Bargain Books on the Butterslip.