Touch, don’t observe – #worldbrailleday @LabelLib @acniwriting #tbt

Today (4 Jan 2019) is World Braille Day and I have just taken up the RNIB’s offer to have a visual representation of my name in braille to raise awareness of braille (RNIB Connect Podcast) and happily remembering getting a better sense of braille last year.

2018-04-25 13.26.26

Label lit/Poetry Day 2018 ‘Poetry Surprises’

I loved being part of this initiative for National Poetry Day ’18 – taking to Downpatrick with a handful of labels to be found in places where poetry would not be normally found.

The individual micro-poems/labels were drawn from a deconstructed poem (reconstructed below) that I had written for a curating poetry course.

The poem’s curation element was born out of my frustration at the behind-glass at-a-distance visual presentation of art, particularly constructed or 3D artforms, where individual pieces seemed to silently scream from behind the glass, or whatever out-of-reach space, about how the best part of their innate artistic communiation was in the form of physical interaction which was prohibited.  I was also, in my own writing practice, experimenting with the sense of touch – that self-same physical interaction (skin-to-skin contact being the most profoundly inspirational but in my workshop experiments it was objects which were called upon to share their inspirational qualities through the medium of the fingers, the palms, the skin).

Working with the PageTurners – a creative writing group drawn from the RNIB NI membership – the idea of creating labels with a braille element presented itself to me. I am still so grateful to the RNIB braille team for responding to my strange request and so quickly. They said two things which I have filed away for future use. One is that braille isn’t as commonly known as it was by virtue of the advance in technology and the other is that I could, if I was a bit more organised, have organised actual brailled labels. This might have been a better awareness raising and access strategy – but my curation of braille ‘elements’ was also to invoke the language of touch, raising broader awareness of the predominance of the visual in our lives – and perhaps to create a bridge between the two.

The braille version of poem came back to me in one piece without line-breaks, so in order to create the elements I had to work out the system. I have always loved the feel of braille – words I can touch – but, up to this I hadn’t any idea how to transform the dots and indentations into communication. I am no expert now but I have a better understanding of it and even more respect for it than I had before.

Some more information about Label Lit 2018 by Arts Council NI here (video)

To Have & To Hold: A Curator’s Proposal

Let’s leave the world of the glass display case
Find a way back to our own space
Create a touch tank of the place we inhabit.

Touch       don’t observe

Impressions left on the spoon-bowl palm
Of the hand – a sustaining pleasure
Of weight and size and texture.

Touch       but with care

There are boundaries here to consider
How best to hold what’s fixed, passing through
All that contains you?

Touch      these four walls

Doors   windows   keep vigilant
For anywhere that feels like confinement
Ask yourself is this what home is?

What
Holds you
Here.

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