Review by Amanda Anastasi
When Koraly Dimitriadis released her first edition of Love & F**k Poems last year, it was in the form of a zine complete with handwritten poems and drawings. Now we have the ‘deluxe edition’- an impressive perfect-bound revamped production by Out Of The Box Press. For the purposes of this review, I read it cover to cover in one sitting. I must admit I felt exhausted afterwards, like I’d been through a kind of war: Koraly’s tug-of-war between empowerment and passivity, love and well…f**k.
In Love & Fuck Poems, Koraly takes us through the highs and lows of her relationships and family life with cutting frankness. Coming from a similar cultural background, I couldn’t help but be floored by the boldness and honesty of the poet’s voice. I immediately understood the level of courage involved in Koraly’s choices both in life and in her mode of expression, and the cost of it. The quote of her mother in Best Friend demonstrates this plainly: “Me evales ston tafo. You’ve put me in my grave.”
Koraly once described the writing and performance of a poem to me as ‘a quick fix’. These poems are exactly that, but to say they are just this would sell many of them short. The brazen nature of these poems – particularly the ‘f**k’ poems – in themselves are a protest to the repressive culture from which she emerged. Then there are those poems that go beyond a mere emotional purge, and are quite introspective and reflective as in Starting To Learn and My Words, where Koraly steps out of her immediate emotion.
The language is plain-speaking, unpretentious and very accessible. I confess I like my poetic language somewhat layered; for it to imply rather than tell and to leave much to the imagination. However, I also react against poetry that tries to be too clever and appreciate that which is natural, lucid and communicates directly…and Koraly is certainly direct! With Koraly’s poetry, the complexity is not in the language but in the emotional journey the poet embarks on. It is in the way Koraly is able to hold up a mirror to herself, and subsequently hold one up to her reader, that makes this engaging.
In erotic poetry, I feel there is a broad pool of sensory imagery to be used which can only add to the seduction of the poem. I couldn’t help but want more of this in Koraly’s f**k poems – more sensuality, more mystery, a bit more…well, foreplay! Let’s just say Koraly doesn’t waste time in her poems. Most of this is titillating stuff with a certain voyeuristic appeal, and it is no wonder that the book has been so incredibly successful for a poetry chapbook. If any poet is going to crack anything close to a mainstream following, it will certainly be Koraly!
There are some truly beautiful moments in this collection that are well worth mentioning. Do I Know You and Daylesford are quite magical. The latter would have to be my favourite, along with Love. I enjoyed lines like “No miracle, no fairytale/ It’s just random crisscrossing” and “I run towards the sunrise.” There were some poems like Davo and Gotcha! I couldn’t get into, but there were others like Wedding Photo, When A Relationship Ends, Your House and others previously mentioned where I made a true emotional connection.
I find Koraly at her fiery best with poems like Define Me – those poems that are tight, punchy and rife with cultural references, but at the same time brimming with feeling. The theme of fighting against being defined appears again in poems like See Me and I Don’t Know. Here, though, it is the romantic relationship that Koraly refuses to define or place expectations on.
The one to two line poems are quite thought-provoking also, and provide a calm relief from the turmoil! In my silence, I see beauty is a welcome reprieve after the turbulent poem it follows, Threesome. This poem reads much like a short story. It is very prose-like, as is a lot of Koraly’s poetry. I found myself resisting Wog Guys for its generalisation, even if it was tongue-in-cheek, as I did the momentary anti-maleness in How To Get A F**k. “THIS is a man’s world and they are all BASTARDS.” Every time I saw a word in capital letters, I visualised Koraly bellowing it out in fearless Koraly fashion on the open mic!
In many of the poems I felt a sense of the woman being a passenger in the relationship; insisting on control and satisfaction, but never quite able to attain it – not, that is, until the very end. Aren’t we all, though, intermittently powerful and passive within relationships? Koraly articulates this dichotomy clearly, and with such incredible candour. The collection ends, fittingly, with Starting To Learn and Temple. Temple is a poem about self-acceptance and the love affair we must have with ourselves.
In Love and F**k Poems, Koraly unashamedly explores the rollercoaster of feelings in a relationship: the battling, the calm and the endless contradictions. Her poetry is confronting, but not merely in its sexual content. It is the emotional rawness that is the most confronting aspect of her work. It is palpable right from the warning opening poem Volcano to the maturity and defiance of the ending poem Temple. Whether Koraly Dimitriadis’ Love & F**k Poems is your cup of tea or not, I defy you to put it down once you’ve picked it up. Believe me folks, you won’t!
Koraly Dimitriadis’ Love & F**k Poems will be launched on Thursday, 6th December at 6.30pm by Alicia Sometimes at Brunswick Street Bookstore, 305 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy and is available at various bookstores throughout Melbourne. For a list of stockists visit http://www.koralydimitriadis.com
Amanda Anastasi is a Melbourne page and performance poet with a Bachelor of Professional Writing and Literature from Deakin University. She is a two-time winner of the Williamstown Literary Festival’s Seagull Poetry Prize and a recipient of the 2011 Laura Literary Award’s C.J. Dennis Poetry Award. This year she is a judge in the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize and has released her first poetry collection 2012 and other poems.