Coverage of Overload wouldn’t be complete without a word from Melbourne poet Komninos Zervos. Komninos was one of the poets who was locked in the poetry workshop during Overload, while the rest of us were out sestina-ing the streets. The Overland Overloaded team caught up with Komninos:
Komninos Zervos…Sorry, that was self indulgent, I love saying your name. It’s poetry in itself – Komninos Konstantinos Zervos. So ummm….let’s start again for the sake of professionalism. How have you survived so long on the Melbourne poetry scene, when we hear tell it’s just wild out there?
Well, I haven’t. I left Melbourne in 1989 and moved north to Sydney, then further north in 1995 to Queensland. I decided to go back to study and got myself a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from UQ and started working with computers, trying to imagine what poetry looks like in cyberspace. So from about 1995 to 2007 I have been working mainly on the web creating animated text multimedia poetry, (I call it cyberpoetry) sometimes interactive, and didn’t really write performance poetry for page and stage until I returned to melbourne in 2008 to resume my role as a performance poet. And you are right it is wild out there. there are so many great performance poets, yourself included, it is very competitive for audience and money. When I started off in 1985 I was one of few poets that had
decided to try and survive through their art.
No, seriously. Poets come and poets go, but there is always Komninos, and you always seem to be producing new and exciting work. Do poets ever retire?
I don’t think poets retire, they may advance or develop into teachers, playrights, scriptwriters, novelists, etc, but they always retain a poet’s outlook on life, a need to tell it from their perspective.
Which poets do you wish would retire from the Melbourne poetry scene. Whisper them to us. We won’t tell, I swear…
Look I never got off on putting anyone down, I respect all poets, even the ones that upset me.
Are you kidding?
No I am not kidding. there has been too much division in the history of australian poetry, too many false oppositions, too many wars, too much bad feeling, eg english/australian, republic/monarchy, academic/community, city/bush, melbourne/sydney, classicism/modernism, men/women, modernism/postmodernism, rural/urban, anglocentric/multicultural, straight/gay, published/performance, etc etc. Poetry has many manifestations and plenty of room for everybody.
Why are you laughing so hard?
Well, having said that, I recall a night when I tried to shout someone off the stage for what I thought was a personal attack on a member of the audience. I don’t think poetry performance should be used to ridicule or assassinate another poet.
No really, why?
It is the most direct form of personal expression I know, totally transportable, low tech, and the performance well it is like Charles Olsen said it’s this great exchange of energy between the poet and the audience, totally awesome in the true sense of the word. a good poem can leave me awestruck. It is a great way to communicate emotion and ideas.
Finish this sentence: A poet’s place is…
Full of old books.
What are you doing at Overload Poetry Festival?
What will you secretly be doing at the Overload Poetry Festival while nobody is watching?
Watching the cricket.
Singing the blues.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without writing poetry over the last decade?
If you mean for performance and print, about 12 years, yes from 1995 to 2007. I did create some interactive cyberpoems for the web though.
No, I have been teaching poetry at Chisholm, Frankston since returning to melbourne, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tell us about the Watsonia Workshop at the Overload Festival
Well apparently the local writers were asked to perform at the local motor show and wanted a workshop on performance and to write poems that would suit such an occassion.
Plug it harder.
It was called ‘MotorMouth’, which seems to suit me.
Are you one of those ‘constructive criticism only’ poetry teachers?
No not really, if I think a poem is not working, I ask what the intent was for writing that poem and then discuss with the writer if they think they have achieved their goal. but I’m not one for too much editing. Some poems just can’t be fixed. It’s often easier to write a new one that does do what you want. Roland barthes has a great article on writing autobiography which I found illuminating.
Let me rephrase that. Will you tell people if their poetry is crap?
Unfortunately some poems are crap, I have many of them, but I don’t show them to anyone. I don’t perform them and I don’t publish them. I still keep them, but only I look at them. A poet has to learn to evaluate, and I try to encourage my students to develop this evaluation of their own work and to recognise what is crap and what is not.
Spruik your publications.
the komninos manifesto, fat possum press, 1985
the second komninos manifesto, koala munga press, 1986
sophisticated souvlaki, music theatre, lenko, 1986
the last komninos manifesto, koala munga press, 1987
my friends, 7″vinyl ep, koala munga press, 1987
high street, kew east, collins/angus and robertson, 1990
wordsports, writers in the park, 1991
komninos, university of queensland press, 1991
komninos, audio cassette, uqp, 1991
blood on the butter, play, rock and roll circus, 1991
the baby rap and other poems, illustrated peter viska, oxford university press, 1992
rap it up, play, death defying theatre, 1992
the venus of marrickville, play, koala munga press, 1993
the eye of the law, play, death defying theatre, 1994
komninos by the kupful, university of queensland press, 1995
cyberpoetry, interactive cd-rom, koala munga press, 1996
cyberpoetry underground, interactive cd-rom, koala munga press, 1998
underground, website [http://komninos.com.au/underground], 2005
exercises in surrealism, koala munga press, 2008
manifesto 2008-2009, koala munga press, 2009.
Why should we buy them again?
Because i need the money
Where can we get them from?
Basho Bookshop, 139 lygon street, brunswick.
Collected Works, first floor, 37 swanston street, melbourne.
and me pobox156, carlton south, 3053.