By Melissa Hekkers
Cypriot Australian author Koraly Dimitriades is due to give readings from her new Greek and English book, Love and F**k poems, in Limassol and Nicosia next week, as part of her European book tour.
Ahead of the readings, she opened up to the Weekly about the experience of being a Cypriot migrant Down Under, the touchy-feely subjects she writes about, such as sex and migration, and connecting with honesty and embracing the core of who you really are.
Your father is Cypriot. How has it been growing up as a migrant in Australia? Are there elements of this experience in your work?
Both my parents are Cypriot. Growing up in Australia to migrant parents has its positives and negatives. Firstly, having another ‘home’, which in my case, is Cyprus, is a nice thing to have. I have lots of family in Cyprus and friends that I return to when I visit. The negative aspects were that they could not let go of the traditions and norms they migrated to Australia with in the ’60s and ’70s, so many children of migrants had very strict upbringings, especially if their parents migrated as young adults, like my parents did. The experience of being the daughter of migrants is the perspective I write from in all of my writing, whether that’s a short story, or a novel, or a poem, or an article.
You’ve said that your writing has been referred to as ‘sex poetry’ and is potentially the result of your own repression and eventually breakthrough on the taboo of sex. Do you feel that writing from personal experience gives one a stronger voice?
I feel that writing your truth and honesty from your heart creates the most powerful writing, because many people find it hard, or sometimes, almost impossible, to connect with their honesty. I feel that experiencing the repression I experienced forced me to connect with this honesty when I exploded out of my marriage and culture at the age of 30.
Experience is obviously the core of your work, whether through your parent’s identity or your own paths of life. Yet you now want to move on from ‘sex poetry’ from what I understand. What is your step and how has ‘sex poetry’ enriched you?
I don’t write as much sex poetry as I used to, because I think I have moved beyond exploring my sexual identity. However, these sex poems are also incorporated into my theatre show KORALY: ‘I say the wrong things all the time’ which will premiere in Melbourne in November-December… When I say ‘move on’, I will still perform my poetry as part of a show, as I am able to perform the poems and embody them like I wrote them yesterday. But in terms of my writing, I am writing more opinion articles these days; I have a novel I have been working on for 10 years about the nostalgia migrants pass to their children for their homeland, and I also have two unpublished poetry collections I want to publish.
In Australia I have also started working in the film and TV space, and writing black comedy based on my experiences. I never set out to write sex poetry. I always just write from the perspective of being the daughter of migrants, but also the perspective of just being female, and this incorporates many different things. Whatever I feel I am experiencing at the time that is what I write. I do still write the occasional sex poem if that is the writing that wants to come out. I always just go with where my artistic instincts take me. Sometimes I feel I actually have no control over this, it is just wherever life takes me. You can’t plan art; art happens.
Given your subjects – sex/ migration – are there messages or insights you aspire to give with your work, or is it merely creative?
Yes. Don’t be afraid to be honest with people and with yourself. Don’t be afraid to live. Be true to who you are because you only live once. Don’t even think you are not normal. I spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t normal. Now I know I am just human, like everyone else. I think society and culture can make you feel that if you don’t conform, you are not normal. But it is the society and the culture that boxes us in. Be free. Be honest. And don’t worry about what people think. They will judge no matter what you do. Just do what you want to do. Say what you want to say. Live how you want to live. Women are not taught any of this. They are taught to find a good husband and have children. They are not taught to find who they are, to listen to what they want.
You’ve been referred to as the female Charles Bukowski. What does this mean to you in reference to your work, but also to yourself as a woman?
I think people call me that because they see an honesty in my work that can also be seen in Bukowski. He is, in fact, one of my poetic inspirations, but so are other poets like Sylvia Plath, Sappho, Anne Sexton. What it means to me when people say I am the female Bukowski is that I am being honest like him, and it is very flattering.
Tell me a little bit about your new book. The title is somewhat explicit. Where does it lead?
My book is about a Greek woman who explodes out of her marriage and culture in search of her sexual identity. The title has the word ‘f**k’ in it, but I meant this word not only because I want to write about sex, but also because I wanted to say ‘f**k you, I am going to say whatever I want’, because, as a female, I felt my circumstances created an environment where I was not allowed to say and do what I want. And so now, better late than never, I am saying it all, and that is what my work is about, not caring what people think and just saying what you think and what you feel, and this is the most liberating feeling of all. I think people who love my work feel liberation when they read it, and that is a very rewarding feeling. The European Greek or English editions can be purchased from Honest Publishing.
How open do you think the Cyprus public will be to your work and how have readers responded so far?
What I write about is not easy and I have to be really brave. But I do it because I spent much of my life not being honest with who I am, and being very ashamed of sex and my body, and I think this is very common for women and also some men. We are conditioned for sex to be something we don’t discuss when it is part of being human, and there are so many emotions and feelings attached to sex, and that is the part that I am most interested in. Over the years, I have seen that people either really love my work or really hate it. And I think the same will be for Cyprus. People are confronted by what I do, and I find sometimes it takes people some time to digest it. I have performed at places where people don’t speak to me afterwards and I have no idea how they felt about my work, but then in that week I will have an increase in book sales. People need to go away and think about what I am saying, and I don’t mind that. I want them to think.
‘Love and F**k poems’ will be launched in both Nicosia and Limassol. On Tuesday October 4, 8.30pm at Prozak in Nicosia, and on Thursday October 6, 8.30pm at Sousami Bar in Limassol. More information on http://www.honestpublishing.com/books/love-and-fuck-poems/