One Australian Cypriot poet has shocked with the content of some of her poems but there is more to them than swearing says ALIX NORMAN
Poetry ought to be about clouds, or daffodils. Or possibly clouds AND daffodils. It has to rhyme, and it should be ‘pretty’. Except actually, it shouldn’t. That’s just a popular misconception. Today’s interviewee is a young poet who’s been rocking the antipodes with her expressions of raw emotion and “honest moments” in a book entitled Love and Fuck Poems. And believe me, she’s not writing about daffodils…
Melbourne born and raised, 37-year-old Cypriot Australian Koraly Dimitriadis is a product of the culture she’s now bucking: a self-proclaimed erotic poet whose literary journey of self-discovery has been greatly inspired by the repression and patriarchal mores she experienced as a child of immigrants. ‘The only way to get a guy is to become one’, she writes in ‘How to Get A Fuck’. ‘Let’s not pretend here, we, live in a man’s world…’
“My parents brought their traditions with them to Australia, and clung to them tightly; it makes you feel other, displaced when you’re 19 years old and not allowed to watch kissing on TV,” laughs this articulate, amusing young woman. “Then there was the whole virginity thing: no sex before marriage and guys are after only one thing. So you grow up repressed to a certain extent; stopped from making decisions, from exploring your own sexuality and identity. And you’re told to study, get married and have kids… But eventually,” she adds, “you’re going to explode out the other side. Like a volcano.”
Which, incidentally, is the title of the first poem in her book: ‘You say I’m like a volcano, spurting my poetry like magma, but there’s one point you overlooked as you held me naked in the night… Red-tempered, unapologetic, a volcano shows no mercy, naturally covering and re-covering its surrounds in boiling rock liquid…’
“I’d spent so much of my life repressing my creativity that when I finally broke free it was just like that, like a volcano erupting,” she explains. “And I’m sure a lot of women who have experienced a similar upbringing feel the same way. I know I’m not alone in this.”
The more she writes – Koraly is juggling a number of projects, including a prequel to her book, a novel, opinion pieces for local papers, and an optioned TV show – the more Koraly realises, she says, that women all over the world identify with her poetry and her tale. “Yes, it’s erotic by genre,” she clarifies, “but I’ve always felt that the book is like a story told through poetry. As a person – an honest, raw poet – I don’t hold back. My mentor” – renowned writer Christos Tsiolkas – “gave me a great piece of advice when I started putting my thoughts and feelings down in words. ‘Write like nobody will read it,’ he said. And that’s what I’ve done.”
It’s a system that works. Love and Fuck Poems has sold in the thousands in Australia, and Koraly is now represented by UK publishing house Honest Publishing. Plus the book has just been translated, and is currently wowing the Greek-speaking world. “My DNA is Cypriot, this is my ancestry, so I love to be able to perform my poems in my first language,” Koraly explains. “This beautiful language is part of who I am, and there is the rhythm of the language in them – something I didn’t realise when I first wrote them in English.”
Translated by Konstantina Ioannidou, Love and Fuck Poems loses nothing in the language change, Koraly asserts. “In fact, I think maybe the poems are even more powerful in Greek. Especially when I’m performing them: there’s something almost Medea-like to it.” Her poems, she adds, are not ‘read’ when she’s in front of a live audience. “They’re ‘performed’,” she explains, giving a brief rendition which is mind-blowing in its power and emotion.
I’m touched that she’s delighted by my reaction – for someone who has made such a name for themselves in such a short time she’s delightfully unaffected, almost humble in her appreciation. “In Australia a lot of academics say that my poetry isn’t poetry,” she reveals. “But then a lot of people who’ve read it have said ‘I hate poetry but I love your book’ – stuff like that makes me think I’m not going to listen to the academics but just connect with my natural ability. One woman in Australia came up to me after a performance and said ‘thank you for writing all the things we’re too afraid to say’. She had a kind of fear in her eyes which I’ll never forget. I want to get to these women; I know they’re there and listening, and I want to connect with them and help them to heal.”
However, she concludes, Love and Fuck Poems is not just for those who need the balm of her words. “I think maybe the book has been so successful because even women who haven’t experienced repression connect with the work, the male and female dynamics,” she suggests. “Maybe there’s something for everyone in it. What inspires me is those moments in life that mean something; something that moves me, or hurts me or makes me feel love or anger or happiness – the pivotal moments in life. I don’t just sit down and say I’m going to write a poem – I feel something in my heart and have to express it in words…”
‘Define me, square me, stake the fence high…Watch me. Watch me ignite, burn’ runs a line from ‘Define Me’. And it seems to be a wholly apt description of Koraly herself: the tribulations she’s had to overcome to get where she is today, along with her total honesty of character. It’s raw emotion and poignant longing; words that sear the soul and spear the heart. Erotic poetry at its finest. Sans daffodils.
Love and Fuck Poems
Available in Greek and English from all good bookshops, as well as from Amazon and Honest Publishing (www.honestpublishing.com). For more information on Koraly and her works, visit www.koralydimitriadis.com