Stories

 

 

LOVE AND FUCKING CYPRIOT STYLE: FIVE MINUTES WITH KORALY DIMITRIADIS

She's been called the female Bukowski; she's performed her poetry on stage alongside Melbourne poet Ben John Smith; she's got a book of poems hot off the press in London and a one-woman performance in the works in Australia—where she lives and writes—but says Cyprus is her soul's home. Write CY caught up with Cypriot-Australian author Koraly Dimitriadis in Nicosia as she got ready for her Euro Tour to launch the new Greek and English editions of her debut poetry collection Love and Fuck Poems.

THE INTERVIEW

Write CY: I love Ben John Smith’s tattoos. How many can you name?

Koraly Dimitriadis: I love them too. LOL. I didn’t realise he had names for them.

WCY: Serious question. You’re an Australian poet coming to Cyprus to launch the Greek and English editions of LOVE AND FUCK POEMS (ΠΟΙΗΜΑΤΑ ΓΙΑ ΑΓΑΠΗ ΚΑΙ ΓΙΑ ΓΑΜΗΣΙ), so in some sense you identify with Cyprus even though it’s not your home. Why is connecting this book to Cyprus so important to you?

KD: Even though I was born in Australia, I feel like Cyprus is my first home, my soul’s home. I’m not exactly sure why I have this strong pull to Cyprus. Growing up, my dad would talk to me about Cyprus a lot, about its history and people, and we would visit, and he would idolize Cyprus, and so I guess I did too. Over the years this bond has grown stronger and stronger to the point where I think I am drawn to Cyprus more than my dad is.

WCY: Has translating the book into Greek affected that connection?

KD: The entire process was life-changing in many different ways. Firstly, it was the very first time I didn’t stay with relatives on a visit to Cyprus and had my own place. It was the first time I visited on my own too, and I stayed two months. I worked at my translator’s office, 341 Creative Spaces, and essentially I had a workplace and mixed with different artists. Through this I networked with the arts community and made many friends that I continue to work with. For example, Olga Aristodemou, I was introduced to through a friend of a friend on this trip and now she’s directing my theatre show, which will premier in Melbourne at the end of 2016—Koraly: I Say the Wrong Things All the time. Translating the poetry with Konstantina Ioannidou was a profound experience. I fell in love with the Greek language. We would work into the early hours of the morning, delirious and inspired. All these things combined solidified and intensified my passion for Cyprus, so Cyprus feels more home than ever before.

WCY: You’ve been called “the female Charles Bukowski.” How do you see your own work in relation to Bukowski?

KD: Bukowski had an honesty in his poetry unlike any other poet I have read before, so I guess when people put me in the same bucket as him, I think they are saying my poetry has a rawness and an honesty that is similar to his. I find it quite flattering when people say this, but I don’t think I am just Bukowski. I think I’m a cross between Sylvia Plath and Bukowski.

WCY: Not a bad hybrid. You’ve also been associated with “sex poetry.” The term was actually new to me, and it’s something old to you, in that you said you’re moving away from it and don’t really like being defined as a “sex poet.” But you performed on stage with Ben John Smith for a few years waging sex poetry wars. What was writing sex poetry all about? What did you get out of it? Why are you sick of it?

BEN JOHN SMITH AND KORALY DIMITRIADIS | PHOTO: KALIOPI MALAMAS

BEN JOHN SMITH AND KORALY DIMITRIADIS | PHOTO: KALIOPI MALAMAS

KD: Ben John Smith was the first poet I ever saw performing poetry about sex. I had just exploded out of my marriage and culture and was in a terrible place, trying to find who I was as a person. I had no idea sex could be incorporated into a poem. Ben gave me courage to do this. Ben launched the initial zine LOVE AND FUCK POEMS for me and we did a poetry war, poem for poem, a kind of battle of the sexes, and people really liked it. So we did a few wars where we also did a photo shoot to promote it. I actually really hate the term "sex poetry" though. It feels so one-dimensional and almost pornographic. It’s all about the context of the sex, who it is happening to and why. My context is that I grew up in a culture where I was told I was not allowed to have sex before I was to be married. Boys were allowed to go and do what they wanted and girls had to be good and find a husband, get married and have kids. I also was not allowed to watch kissing or sex on TV and I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. So the context of my "sex poetry" is one of repression and of breaking through that repression to find my sexual identity, something that women are not really encouraged to do. The wars with Ben John Smith were not sex poetry wars, they were just poetry wars, the female against the male, and the dynamic between the sexes.

I also write a lot of other things that have nothing to do with sex. I write from the perspective of a daughter of Cypriot migrants who grew up in Australia, and within that experience there is so much to write about. One of those things is sexual exploration.As the new season of Open Mic Nights kicks off at Prozak Kafeneion WED 19 OCT, 2016 8-11PM, we present a vivid flashback of what may have been last season's triumph.

It’s the spoken word community of Melbourne that really saved me and inspired me to express my struggles when I fled my culture and marriage at age 30. This community was my safe haven, and is for many people. Sharing stories in these spaces heals people and provides hope.
— Koraly Dimitriadis

WCY: Ok, so we’re into storytelling here at Write CY, especially storytelling that involves the community. You do a lot of things as a writer. You write essays, poems, novels, you’ve had a successful blog, you’re on the radio and perform one-woman shows. So you’re in the public eye as a writer. What’s your take on the whole storytelling revival that’s sort of seeped into mainstream culture?

KD: I see myself as a storyteller and I don’t like to box myself into genre. Is there a storytelling revival? I’m not sure I know about it. If you mean Open Mic Nights, then I would say it’s the spoken word community of Melbourne that really saved me and inspired me to express my struggles when I fled my culture and marriage at age 30. This community was my safe haven, and is for many people. Sharing stories in these spaces heals people and provides hope.

WCY: Open Mics kind of level out the playing field, I agree. I love the inclusivity, as opposed to the traditional publishing world, which is exclusive and very difficult to break into. What kind of challenges do you face in Australia as a female independent author working in a male-dominated industry?

KD: In Australia, I think writing by women, particularly women of color or women from diverse backgrounds, is perceived as a hard sell by publishers because they believe we are only preoccupied with ethnic themes and our writing is not classed as literary enough. For example, if I waited to find a publisher for LOVE AND FUCK POEMS, rather than self-publishing, I would still be waiting for a publisher. I’ve made my own opportunities and it’s been liberating.

Writers can help if they truly believe in diverse stories being told, they can help by not misappropriating our narratives. This in a sense would be their way of protesting against the way things are, rather than contributing to the way things are.
— Koraly Dimitriadis

WCY: We’ll close out the interview with something topical. I know you sided with Yassmin Abdel-Magied when she walked out on Lionel Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Lit Festival the other week citing what was essentially the white (male) privilege argument. How does that affect you personally?

KD: The truth is that if a white guy wrote a book about a Greek woman trying to break out of her marriage, and I too also wrote a book about the same theme, the white man would be published and the Greek woman would not. Why? Because the white man probably has a Masters in creative writing and has written a book of literary merit, and the industry is run by white people who like to help out their white friends. On the other the hand, the woman spent most of her life repressed in her culture, came to writing much later, her voice will most definitely be raw and confronting and she will be speaking her truth from her heart. But the white guy will get the gig.

I had a white friend ask me if I could help her write a Greek character for a TV show she is working on where the Greek woman would be the protagonist and she told me that she would be more likely to get it produced that way and then she would be helping Greek stories get out into the public.

White people just don’t get it. It’s not really the white writer’s fault though. It’s the way it all operates. But writers can help if they truly believe in diverse stories being told, they can help by not misappropriating our narratives. This in a sense would be their way of protesting against the way things are, rather than contributing to the way things are. If all white people stopped misappropriating narratives, then more genuine stories from diverse writers would be told and would make it through to the mainstream. This is very important in influencing our society and in a sense, healing our world, because it allows for a better understanding of different cultures.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Koraly Dimitriadis is in Cyprus as part of a EURO TOUR to celebrate the publication of the Greek and English editions of LOVE AND FUCK POEMS, to be published by Honest Publishing (UK) for European distribution. LOVE AND FUCK POEMS is a bestseller for the poetry genre in Australia. Koraly was born in Australia to Cypriot migrants. Follow the Love and Fuck Euro Tour on Facebook.


NEXT APPEARANCES

London – 20th September 7:30pm, The Nines, Peckham, South London
Athens – 24th September 8pm, Vault Theatre Plus, Votanikos
Nicosia – 4th October 8:30pm, Prozak Cafe
Limassol – 6th October 8:30pm, Sousami


BIO

PHOTO: KALIOPI MALAMAS

PHOTO: KALIOPI MALAMAS

Koraly Dimitriadis was born in Australia to Greek-Cypriot migrants. She is a writer of poetry, prose and non-fiction who explores feminism, racism, sexuality and culture, while challenging the traditional norms of poetry through literature, performance, film and music. Koraly works as a freelance opinion writer for major media publications in Australia. LOVE AND FUCK POEMS is her debut poetry book. Find her at www.koralydimitriadis.com.