Friday night saw the opening of the tenth annual Overload Poetry Festival which takes place over the next nine days at various venues around inner Melbourne.
One of the festival’s featured poets is Cypriot-Australian Koraly Dimitriadis, who will perform pieces from her new collection, the provocatively titled Love and F*ck Poems. There will also be a special event showcasing the work of a number of Greek poets. Founded in 2002, Overload has generated a great deal of momentum in a relatively short time.
Initially a kind of left-of-centre alternative, the festival has increasingly been gaining mainstream acceptance, hosting poets from all over the world. And while poetry may evoke some fairly dusty associations, it’s developed significantly over the last few decades. Today it’s a multi-faceted form. This year’s program lists various genres: ‘stage, page, experimental, slam, screen and all possible permutations’. There are about seventy poets taking part, including ten with Greek backgrounds.
Next Thursday night at the Willow Bar, Northcote, Beware of Greeks Bearing Poems is an evening devoted exclusively to a number of Greek-Australian artists. It will include established poets Dimitri Troaditis and Helena Spyrou, and emerging poets Dina Gerolymou, Pixie Trangas and Connie Armatas, who will read their work in both Greek and English. There are another five Greek poets who will be performing elsewhere in the festival.
Koraly Dimitriadis is one of those. A second-generation Cypriot-Australian, her Love and F*ck Poems is an exploration of sexuality, repression and love; a feminist critique on the conservative expectations that migrant families often place on their daughters.
“Women are supposed to get a safe career and marry,” she explains. “Then you find out it’s different. Women are not encouraged to explore, especially regarding their sexuality.” She knows what she’s talking about. She married aged 22 and separated nine years later, which caused her family considerable distress. “Lots of women who married young are separating. You can’t talk about it. Some members of my family still don’t know I’ve separated.”
Along the way though, she had a daughter, which ushered in an unexpected burst of prolific creative activity.
“I’ve just come to poetry in the last few years. Prior to that I’d been working on my novel. But I’ve always written, since I was young. I just didn’t see it as poetry.” Her first collection didn’t make much of an impression, and she was expecting much the same of Love and F*ck Poems. Then she started selling a few copies.
“I’d put it in Polyester (Bookstore in Fitzroy). They sold five copies in a week. I said, ‘are you serious?'” She’s about to start her third print run. The poems are confronting, visceral, full of the overbearing sensations of touch and pain and raw emotion. They document a journey of discovery where the terrain is the body: “It should be celebrated but I still haven’t overcome my shame.”
So what do her parents think of her work? “I love my family, I’m very close to them, especially now with my daughter. But I don’t really talk about my writing with them.” Whereas she was going to spend the next year finishing her novel, with the surprise success of Love and F*ck Poems, she’s less certain. She’s already got about 100 poems for her next collection, Love According to Wogs, but she’s not sure what form it will take, and more material is pouring in. Whatever happens, she’s not short of options.
Koraly Dimitriadis performs at the Brunswick Hotel, Brunswick at 8:30pm on Monday 12 September. Her books are available through her website. As part of the Overload Poetry Festival will be the event Beware of Greeks Bearing Poems which will take place at Willow Bar, 222 High Street, Northcote Thursday 15 September 8.30 pm to 10.30 pm. For all other events of Overload Poetry Festival, visit overloadpoetry.org