Sunday, March 16, 2008

Anonymous Premonition - Anita's launch speech

Launch speech for Anonymous Premonition

I must tell you that I am brimming with excitement and honoured to be part of this event today. I’m sure I am not the only person here who considers themselves a midwife in the delivery process of the latest Holt baby, Anonymous Premonition.

It has been a long pregnancy since Yvette’s collection won the David Unaipon Award in 2005. But what a wonderful time it has been watching Yvette blossom as a poet over the years. Today is probably just as exciting for us Yvette as your friends and supporters, as it is for you. Because we know your ability, we know the passion behind your words, we know the strength of your convictions, and we know how much of a contribution you will go on to make to the world of poetry, not only in Australia, but internationally.

But you are not just a poet Yvette, and while many of your friends, family and colleagues here will know of your educational and professional achievements, I think it’s important to flag them also.

For those of you who didn’t know, our Yvette is a graduate from the University of Technology, Sydney, she has a degree in Adult Education & Community Management (Business). In 2003 Yvette received the UTS Human Rights Award in the category of Reconciliation for her outstanding contribution towards the elevation of social justice for Indigenous Australians. Yvette is active on a number of state boards and committees, and she currently researches Indigenous Australian literature for the Black Words subset of AustLit: Yvette’s latest achievement has been a position as lecturer in Aboriginal Women's Studies at the University of Queensland.

It is Yvette’s keen interest in social justice and leadership and development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and her concern for family, friends, human rights and issues around domestic violence, that form the basis of her incredibly powerful and at times emotionally charged writing. Anonymous Premonition deals with painful issues like incest, attempted suicide, depression, incarceration, and the realities of funerals as part of the daily lives of Aboriginal people. But it also acknowledges the longevity and resilience of true friendships and the strength that Yvette draws from key people in her life.

And there are also moments that gave me as a reader and friend enormous insight into an Yvette that I never knew. For example, I have to admit that looking at our glamazon sister today, it’s hard for me to believe that as a little girl growing up all Yvette wanted to do was play football. But that’s what she tells us in “The Grandest Final”. And how she longed to kick that pig skin – somehow Yvette, I struggle with the thought of you in footy socks and spikes. And when I read in different poems references to footy boots and walking in heels I quickly came to understand Yvette’s obsession with shoes. I think on one block release visit to UTS Yvette travelled with 12 pairs of shoes in her luggage. Correct me if I’m wrong, it may have been 13.

In fact when reading Yvette’s collection I started to think about when in I first met her. I can’t honestly remember. But what I do know is that I knew Yvette’s HAIR before I knew Yvette the person. I saw this striking, tall black woman with a mane that got flicked atround a lot and who always looked confident and wore beautiful pashmenas and wraps. I saw her at Sydney Writers’ Festival and then I saw her at a NAIDOC Event at the National Musuem in Canberra but I still wasn’t sure who she was, but we smiled at each other. Perhaps she was thinking the same thing, I don’t know. But I can tell you I felt a little daggy in my appearance being in the same room with Yvette, and I was just a little bit scared of her as well. She looked like a power-broker.
And she is – a power-broker of words. Samuel Wagan Watson and Jena Woodhouse have already referred to the work in Anonymous Premonition as uncompromising, uplifting and revealing, fresh, compelling and empowering. So what else could be left to add to these words, PLENTY!

Anonymous Premonition is a collection of tributes:
It is a tribute to Yvette’s home at Inala 4077;
It is a tribute to the strength of Yvette’s friendships, and moreso how devoted and loyal a friend Yvette is;
It is a tribute to the special people who will always be remembered by Yvette like our late sista, the poet Lisa Bellear and Yvette’s brother Kevin Alex Holt, whom was removed from the Holt’s lives all too soon;
It is a tribute to motherhood also, that momentarily made me almost feel like I’m missing out on something not having had a child of my own. I read and re-read a beautiful entry called “Motherhood” dedicated to Yvette’s daughter Cheyenne. Of course, I did a road trip with Yvette and Cheyanne to the Dreaming Festival last year, so I know the other side of the story, too!

Yvette’s words demonstrate the love of a sister, the love of a mother, the love of a friend, and the love quite clearly that only a woman can give. Sorry men, but I do believe that we love differently.

In terms of Yvette’s poetry, it makes me as a writer seem almost fraudulent. Because Yvette already has the solid voice and style of someone with many, many years of experience, and yet Anonymous Premonition is her first published collection. This effort reminds of the first published novel of Tara June Winch and Swallow the Air. In that this book also is an extraordinary gift by a young black woman to the Australian literary community and general society. So on behalf of both, I want to thank you Yvette for such an offering.

I believe Anonymous Premonition is a fitting tribute to the resilience of Aboriginal women everywhere, but you Yvette are a tribute yourself, to your family, to your nation and to Inala 4077.

In the words of the late Eric Rolls “You launch a boat not a book, you open a book.” So it is my great pleasure now to say that the David Unaipon Award winning collection of poetry by Yvette Holt, Anonymous Premonition, is now officially opened.

Anonymous Premonition is published by UQP:

1 comment:

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Wow, well you certainly made me want to rush right out and get it!