Australian poet, author and performer Koraly Dimitriadis is the author of the controversial Love and F**k Poems, a stunning book of poetry which has been translated into Greek with rights sold into Europe. As an opinion writer, she has contributed to publications such as The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, SBS, Daily Life, Rendezview and The Saturday Paper. Koraly has turned her poems into short films, called The Good Greek Girl Film Project, courtesy of an ArtStart Grant.
In November 2016, Koraly's theatre show Koraly: I Say The Wrong Things All The Time, will premiere at La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton, from November 30th through to December 11th.
Get to know Koraly's work at KoralyDimitriadis.com.
What You'll Learn:
1. What inspired Koraly to write Love and F**k Poems.
2. Listen to Koraly read aloud three of her poems.
3. What to expect at Koraly's upcoming show and where to book tickets.
Elizabeth: Welcome to Writers’ Tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Harris, the show that connects Authors, Poets and Songwriters with their global audience. So I can continue to bring you high-caliber guests, I want you to go to iTunes, click Subscribe, leave a review, and share this podcast with your friends.
Today I’m delighted to introduce poet, author and actor Koraly Dimitriadis. Koraly is the author of the controversial bestseller Love and F**k Poems, a stunning poetry book which has been translated into Greek with rights sold into Europe. She is an opinion writer and has contributed to publications such as Daily Life, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, SBS, Rendezvous, and The Saturday Paper. She has made short films of her poems called The Good Greek Girl Film Project, made possible with an ArtStart grant.
This November, Koraly’s theatre show, Koraly: I Say the Wrong Things All the Time, will premiere at La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton, Melbourne, from November 30 through to December 11.
Koraly Dimitriadis, welcome to Writers’ Tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Harris.
Koraly: Thank you for having me, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: An absolute pleasure. Koraly, I’m a huge fan, and I love the poetry in your fantastic book Love and F**k Poems. A few things really impressed me about you. Firstly, the courage you show in writing so transparently about your life. Secondly, how you’ve handled the men who inevitably get the wrong idea about you. And thirdly, though some critics describe you as brash, you have a beautiful tender aspect. Can you please tell my listeners what inspired you to write your through-provoking book, Love and F**k Poems?
Koraly: I think it was a long journey of repression for me that led to writing the book, so I spent most of my life just doing what was expected of me by my culture and my family, and got married quite young at 22, not really knowing who I was, not having explored my identity or my sexuality. And all my creativity, because I was steered into a professional career as an accountant and a computer programmer, and so I lived a kind of repressed existence, both creatively, sexually, in many different ways, and my feminity as well…
Elizabeth: And certainly being an accountant would do that to you, wouldn’t it.
Koraly: Yeah well, it’s actually working as a computer programmer. I have an accounting degree. But yeah, I think it was definitely the birth of my daughter at around 27 and I started to question my life path and what I wanted to teach her, and what kind of role model I wanted to be for her. Did I want to teach her to do what everyone wanted her to do, or to be a strong independent woman that makes her own decisions and chooses her own life?
And up until that point I hadn’t really made my own decisions. I felt like I was influenced and just did what people decided for me. And I was very suffocated. And a few years later when I kind of exploded out of my marriage and my culture and the creativity came along with that. And I was writing a lot – a lot - of poetry at the time. I was doing a course at RMIT, and particularly I was studying with Ania Walwicz, and I remember going along to the poetry class and saying to her, “I want to be a poet. Just teach me to be a poet.” And she’s like “I can’t teach you to be a poet. There are no rules in poetry.” And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was like “Are you for real? There’s gotta be some rules.”
And her encouragement really liberated me and I started writing a lot of poetry. I mean it was all happening at the same time, like coming out of my marriage and my culture. And then I remember one day I went and saw Ben John Smith at Passionate Tongues. I don’t know if you know him. He writes a lot of sex poetry, and very honest, kind of Bukowski kind of poetry. And when I went there, I never thought “Oh! You can actually write sex poetry, write about sex.” I talked with him, and he was really another instigator in me – you can write sex poetry, you can write about sex. I had just left my marriage and was exploring my sexuality, and the poetry just came along with it. So from there I wrote Love and F**k Poems, the zine.
Elizabeth: Which is so great, and there are so many aspects to it, which we’ll get to in the interview.
When you are writing, who or what is your major support?
Koraly: My major support? Sorry, what do you mean?
Elizabeth: So when you get into that zone of writing, do you draw on anything in particular? Do you draw on support from people, do you draw on support from coffee and chocolate?
Koraly: Well, I used to have a lot of sugar when I was writing, but I stopped eating sugar 2 years ago for health reasons.
Elizabeth: So what happened?
Koraly: I had some issues with my stomach, so it was really good for my health, and I haven’t turned back. I still have a bit of sugar, but not as much as I used to. But anyway, I probably draw on – I feel like writing is quite an isolating process and I don’t feel very supported when I’m writing; I feel alone. That’s what I would say, but that’s where the best poetry comes out. You’re actually face to face with your true, raw, honest self, and there’s a lot of fear there, but there’s also a liberation, going “This is who I am; this is how I feel”, and I’m going to turn this into a poem.
Elizabeth: And you do this so well.
Koraly: Thank you.
Elizabeth: So do you have a favourite poem, or is this like asking a mother if she has a favourite child?
Koraly: Umm, wow, that’s a really good question. Do I have a favourite poem. I guess I have poems that I think are my strongest poems, but no, I would say that I love all my poems equally, even the ones that haven’t been edited properly and might never see the light of day. And there are a lot of those.
Elizabeth: As I said, Koraly, I love all of your poems. However, I do have three favourites, one of which is Long Awaited Coffee Date. There is such an intensity within this brilliant poem. Can you please read it for our enjoyment?
Koraly: Oh, okay sure. Well no one’s ever told me that Long Awaited Coffee Date is their favourite poem.
Elizabeth: Well I’m unique … will tell you that.
The Long Awaited Coffee Date
When she steps out into the sinister night
She knows he wants more of her
So she leads him to a slim alley
Down the bluestone where nobodies meet
Their lips softly touching
Hands slithering down skin
His tongue in her mouth now
Lips wide, senses ablaze
And she knows she’s not going home
It’s dark when they enter his place
Quick to close the door,
He nudges her flush to the wall
A swift movement of her skirt
He pulls down her underwear
Locates her with his cock
And already he’s inside
Sighing in relief and ecstasy
This f**k months overdue
Her palms hit the wall
He entwines his fingers with hers
Slowly moving inside her
His lips and tongue on her ear
She removes a hand to touch herself
But his hand is quick to follow
He tells her to let him do it
But she pushes his hand away
Because she’s climbing now
And he’ll only delay it, ruin it
“F**king hell!” he curses
“Why do you have to control anything
Since the moment we met
Why won’t you just let me f**k you
Why don’t you just let ME f**k YOU!”
Elizabeth: Wow. (Applause.) That’s so great.
Going back to your book, in your acknowledgements for Love and F**k Poems, you thank a mutual friend of ours, the exceptionally clever editor and writer Les Zigomanis. Les has his own novel due for publication in 2017 with Pantheon Press, called Just Another Week in Suburbia. In the acknowledgements, I was intrigued to read the following: “Thank you to my editor Les Zigmanis for being the tough editor I needed who had every right to kill me during the editing of this book." (Laughter) So dramatic, Koraly! Can I ask what happened, without privacy invasion?
Koraly: Look, Les and I have an interesting relationship. Back in I think 2010, Busybird (Publishing) was the people who published a short story of mine.
Elizabeth: And what was it called?
Koraly: Blood Red Numbers, and it was about a psychotic computer programmer.
Elizabeth: Was it based on anybody in particular?
Koraly: Yes, I did draw inspiration from working in the corporate world as a computer programmer.
Elizabeth: I never guessed!
Koraly: Les and I formed a professional relationship at that point, and he had been following my trajectory on Facebook with Love and F**k Poems. By the way when I published the zine I didn’t expect anything to happen with Love and F**k Poems; I just wanted to have something to sell at my shows.
Elizabeth: Can I ask you explain what a zine is for people who …
Koraly: Ah okay, it’s kind of like … It gets its name from ‘magazine’, and it’s basically like a small kind-of magazine without you like, usually you can print off it at a photocopy place. It’s not a quality book. And I just started putting a couple of copies in Polyester Books and it just started selling really well. And so when I’d sold quite a few copies in bookshops, and I was saying to Les one day, I said “Oh, I’ve got to write my next book.” And he’s like “What are you talking about, you know? You’ve got to turn Love and F**k Poems into a book.” And I was like, “Oh okay. Do you want to edit it?” And he’s like “Yeah, okay.”
Elizabeth: He’s editing my next book too.
Koraly: Yeah. He’s a very – I guess ‘cause I’m quite raw and honest and he’s quite raw and honest in his editing, he doesn’t hold back …
Elizabeth: He calls himself ‘brutal’, actually.
Koraly: Yeah, yeah, so I think, because we are both raw and honest, it creates a kind of interesting dynamic. But that’s what you want. I mean, my director Olga Aristademi from Cyprus who’s directing my theatre show, she is also very raw and honest. And I think I really draw to people that challenge me and challenge what I’m doing, because I want to be a better artist.
So Les is a great supporter of my work and he is always very helpful, and I really like working with him as an editor.
Elizabeth: You know, he’s wonderful. But I want to get back to that question, because I think you avoided the answer.
Koraly: Which one?
Elizabeth: You were saying that he had every right to kill you. Now being a nurse, I find that really difficult to cope with.
Koraly: (Laughter) I think I meant that in a tongue-in-cheek way because I go over things a lot and I want things to be perfect and I feel …
Koraly: And so … and also because you know, I feel like he invests a lot of time in editing and I feel I owe him for that. And I have a lot of gratitude, so that’s how I show my gratitude, by saying that he should have killed me.
Elizabeth: We love gratitude, that’s for sure.
Your brilliant show – Koraly: I Say The Wrong Things All The Time – will debut on November 30th. What can theatre-goers expect from the show?
Koraly: Well, this is the first time I’m putting on a full theatre show with sets and lights and sound and it’s a big team. There’s the people at La Mama and there’s my own team of lighting designer and set designer and all those people. I think there’s ten of us, even though there’s just me on stage. I’ve taken my poetry and turned it into a play, a narrative, a story. And as part of that it includes actual acting rather than just performing my poetry, and creating a story that people can go away and think about. I really want to connect with people, mostly women, but people in general that have problems, that struggle with being honest with who they are, and people around them.
Because society does want to put us into pigeon holes, and I’ve experienced that before. Like I said, you know, my own experiences of – you know – being steered in particular directions and not being who I want to be. I want to inspire people to be themselves and to not be afraid to be themselves, and to know that, yes, it is difficult sometimes, especially in certain cultures and religions, to stand up and be who you want to be. And there are prices and sacrifices to be made, but it’s so worth it, because it’s your life. You only have one life. And why wouldn’t you want to live that life how you want to live it. Why do we have to live according to how other people expect of us? We should just live our own lives and be happy. So that’s what I want to inspire people to do as part of this work.
Elizabeth: And I find you incredibly inspiring, so thank you so much … being so courageous.
Koraly: Thank you.
Elizabeth: Another one of my favourite poems is My Words.
Koraly: Another person actually said that to me recently. Like, really? Like, it’s not one of my favourites. (Laughs)
Elizabeth: Yes. And do you know why, Koraly? Because I feel it reveals your depth. Can you please share that with us?
Koraly: Ah, okay. Yes. I’m actually going to read that poem at a White Ribbon event tomorrow.
Elizabeth: Oh, wow.
Koraly: And also give a speech. And they want me to read that one too, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
Elizabeth: Do you want to talk a little bit about that event?
Koraly: Yeah, it’s just a event about violence – invisible violence against women, and how emotional manipulation can be a form of violence, and how do we empower women to stand up against that. And I’ll be sharing my story like I did with you, you know, what I experienced growing up.
Elizabeth: That’s wonderful, and again, very brave. So My Words …
Koraly: My Words
A long time ago when I was another person
And I wore another face
I wrote short poems to try and make sense of myself.
One, with every wrong footing there is a right
Two, two steps in the wrong path equals one in the right
Three, do not abuse yourself for the blessing of a mistake
Four, regret is a naïve word – pray for mistakes
But that’s all bullsh** when your actions hurt people you care about
Like I care about you.
I have cried many tears in my life
All about things people have done to me, and my hardships, and my sad, sad life
I’m 32 years old, and tonight, for the first time,
I’m crying tears for someone else.
Pain I inflicted with my words
Oh yes! My wonderful words, my powerful narcissistic words.
Oh yes! I’m a poet, and don’t I do it so well.
I can make the crowd collapse into silence,
Like your silence, your hurt silence.
I wanted to crawl into the phone, scoop up the pain in your chest,
And bury it inside me
Not just the pain I caused, but the other pain too,
The pain you hide from me.
I heard it clearly for the first time tonight.
In my mind there is an image of the person I dream to be
You make me want to be that person.
Pity I had to hurt you to realize that, or to realize I care
So much more than I thought I was capable of
And so I write this poem, a pathetic attempt to make it better
Even though the decision you made was actually best for me
And you proved you cared more than my self-sabotaging mind allowed me to believe
So here’s to my attempt to make it better
Here’s to my bullsh** words; it’s all self-indulgent crap
My actions hurt people I care about
They can hurt people I care about …
People I care about …
Like I care about you.
Elizabeth: Beautiful, beautiful. (Applause)
Koraly: Thank you.
Elizabeth: What do you do in your spare time to unwind, other than write poetry?
Koraly: (Laughter) Do single mothers actually have that time?
Elizabeth: I don’t know.
Koraly: I would say that I love to go out dancing.
Elizabeth: Oh wow, what sort of dancing? The Spanish Festival’s coming up this weekend.
Koraly: Umm, anything like – I mean I like dancing to alt rock. I also like dancing to techno music, just anything.
Elizabeth: You’re a dancing queen.
Koraly: I’ve been told I’m a good dancer by my director Olga as well, so …
Elizabeth: Pity we can’t see a demonstration on a podcast, Koraly.
Koraly: Actually I’ll be dancing in my theatre show.
Elizabeth: I’ll be there.
Koraly: So dancing I would say, and also …
Elizabeth: I might come up and join you on stage. (Laughter)
Koraly: Dancing and also spending time with family and friends and going and seeing bands, that kind of stuff.
Elizabeth: Any particular bands you love?
Koraly: I like going to the local pub and listening to whoever’s playing,
Elizabeth: Do you have a website or blog where my listeners can find out more about your work?
Koraly: Yes, I have a website: www-dot-Koraly-Dimitriadis-dot-com. I used to have a blog, but I’ve since closed it because, I used to blog quite a bit when I was kinda in that explosion phase. I was blogging a lot and I kept blogging up till a year ago when I started getting articles published in publications. And then I just wanted to focus my energy on writing articles, and so I closed my blog. But people can go to my website and there are links to all the articles that I’ve published, there.
Elizabeth: And there’s links to some film too, isn’t there.
Koraly: Yeah, there’s links to my films.
Elizabeth: That’s great, really great.
Koraly, this is a signature question I ask all my guests: What do you wish for for the world, and most importantly, for yourself?
Koraly: I wish for no war, and for peace, and equality across races and gender and sexuality of course. And a brighter future for my daughter, a world that is more peaceful than what it is now, so I don’t have to worry about her when I’m gone.
Elizabeth: Can I ask how old is she?
Koraly: She’s 9. And also for myself, I would like to progress with my art and make a living from it.
Elizabeth: Yes, for sure.
Koraly: That’s what I would really like. So but also I would like to inspire women and empower women, and that’s ultimately why I do what I do and put myself on the line.
Elizabeth: I think you certainly do inspire women. Do you want to touch on some of the male reactions – I know you’ve had some fairly dramatic male reactions. And as much as we love men and admire them and so forth, sometimes I think they get the wrong idea, and need to be put on the straight and narrow with your work, so here’s your chance if you’d like to take it.
Koraly: I think actually in Australia, the men are quite well-behaved when it comes to my art. They will contact me and tell me they like my art but they won’t usually make a pass at me. Whereas in Greece and Cyprus the men won’t hold back and they will send me very explicit messages and they will make commentary on my body, and it becomes … And I think the reason for that is because women’s writing overseas is not very respected. In Greece and Cyprus, especially the fact that I write about sex, makes me even less respected and probably means that I just want to have sex and will you have sex with me, that kind of thing.
I don’t get that in Australia. A train driver once wrote me a note about how much he likes my work, on a train technical form, and sent that to me, and I kept it. I thought it was quite funny. But you know he wasn’t making a pass at me. He was commenting on my work. And that’s fine – I don’t mind that. What I mind is when men comment on my body and think that I just want to have sex. I just ignore them, like, as if, you know.
I mean, most of the poems in Love and F**k Poems are about one guy as well, so it’s not … you know … it’s not like … People get this idea that I’m like sexually wild or whatever, but it’s kind of the opposite, so …
Elizabeth: I think it reflects more so on themselves, maybe their hopes and wishes for their world.
I want to wrap up with one of your poems which resonates so well with me and my female friends and my enlightened male friends, and the poem is Temple.
Koraly: Ah, Temple. Okay.
My body is a temple you shall not cross
Unless you are worthy of my communion
I have been angry, desecrated my spirit,
But I needed to do that to arrive here.
I deserve happiness
I deserve love
I deserve someone who will give to me
Just as much as I give to them
And I want it – I want love
I want to embody ecstasy inside alleys
In dark corners, underneath stars,
Everywhere with my man
Explore our darkness and our light
And if you’re not looking for the same thing
And in the meantime, men can come, men can go,
I’m not looking
I’m happy on my own
And I will worship my own
Elizabeth: So powerful and beautiful. Thank you. I have tears in my eyes.
Koraly: Thank you.
Elizabeth: We look forward to your fabulous theatre show, Koraly: I Say The Wrong Things All The Time, at La Mama Theatre, on November 30 to December 11. How do we book tickets?
Koraly: Through La Mama website. So if you Google “Koraly: I Say The Wrong Things All The Time”, it should come up.
Elizabeth: And look, I’d like to contest whether you do or not, because you say plenty of right things, Koraly
Koraly Dimitriadis, thank you so much for guesting on Writers’ Tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Harris. And remember parents, when reserving your tickets for Koraly’s show, it is not a child-friendly show, so book your favourite person to mind your children, and come along and enjoy the genius of Koraly Dimitriadis.
Thank you everyone for tuning in to Writers’ Tête-à-tête with Elizabeth Harris, and may all your wishes come true.
Koraly: Thank you for having me.
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