A voice that demands to be heard

Love and Fuck Poems – image by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Love and Fuck Poems
Koraly Dimitriadis

First, to discuss the controversy. ‘Poetry or pornography?’ was posted on this blog by Koraly in June, and, at last count, has generated 96 comments. To dispel the argument: shock is subjective. Some people might be shocked by the content of this collection, it might warrant a ‘sexually explicit’ label on its cover, but this is the nature of poetry, open to interpretation and judgment. Consider how Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo & Juliet received an M15+ rating in Australia, whereas Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 interpretation of exactly the same words only received a PG. It’s all just a matter of perspective.

These poems are not shocking; they are crafted and honest and call from a saddened soul. I read the collection similarly, yet with a slight difference to Maxine Beneba Clarke. Maxine split the collection between the ‘poems which deal purely with graphic sexual encounters’ and the ‘more emotive poems’. Maxine wrote that ‘the more emotive poems are no simpering dedications to everlasting companionship: they too are fuck poems in their own way. They are complex, angst-ridden, volatile, eloquent and honest.’

I found the split between the ‘graphic’ and the ‘emotive’ to be somewhat blurred. Definitely there is a distinction, one poem might punch you in the balls where another leaves you trying to collect shattered pieces from a foetal position in the corner. But all of these poems are a desperate cry; a cry for help; a cry for companionship; a cry for recognition; but above all, a cry for independence – poems screaming ‘this is what I was, this is what I am, this is what I want.’

Koraly warns in the chapbook’s opening poem ‘Volcano’, ‘You say I’m like a volcano / … Nobody is crazy enough / To go near a volcano / And the ones that do / Never survive.’ The first word of the poem is the wonderfully ambiguous second person pronoun, ‘you’ is open to so many interpretations; ‘you’ could be a particular person unnamed, it could be the reader in a generic reading, but most interesting is taking the ‘you’ as a reference to the persona of the poem herself, and, as such, turning the warning back introspectively.

Anger is focussed outward in the chapbook’s central poem ‘How to get a fuck’. The title suggests the instructional theme of the poem and from the first stanza male readers are put on notice:

The only way to get a guy
Is to become one.
Let’s not pretend here
We, live in a MAN’S world

The comma after ‘we’ in the fourth line is a curious device, creating a feel of resignation, ‘we’ have to accept that we live in this patriarchal society. The poem has a strong feminist narrative, think like a guy – objectify women. When I first read the poem on Koraly’s website I had to apologise on behalf of ‘normal’ men. The poem closes with a reversal on the objectification, the female voice consoling:

Don’t worry I’ll only take what I need.
You can penetrate my cunt
but I’ll be fucked if I let any guy
ever again, penetrate my SOUL.

The last line of this central poem is a key to the collection, the poem, and others within the book, might appear angry but the anger is a reaction to a great hurt within the poet. Poems such as ‘Forever’ expose fears like ‘the wide-eyed thought / “Shit, that was my life!” / is suddenly, irrelevant / The sitting across / from o v e r w e i g h t / wedding vows / night and night again’.

Fears through a lack of identity are evident in ‘I don’t know’, the persona doesn’t know who she is within a relationship: ‘Am I just an instrument you’re playing?… I think I like you but I don’t know… after we make love / I sit with my torture / All I want to do is scrub / Your fingerprints from my skin… I scramble for words that might mean / Something other than I just want to fuck you’. I think these last two lines reveal something about the selection process and title of this chapbook, Love and Fuck Poems, which presents a chicken and egg conundrum. Is there a defined path between the two, does one lead to the other or are we all just floundering, trying to make sense of two mutually exclusive verbs.

The dichotomy of the collection is summed at the end of the chapbook with two adjacent poems, ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Starting to learn’. ‘Fantasy’ appeared in the ‘Poetry or pornography?’ post:

you pin me to the bed
spread my legs
penetrate me
without a condom

The poem might appear as one of the more graphic in the chapbook but, once again, the use of ‘you’ leaves the poem open to further interpretation. Metaphorically the ‘you’ doesn’t have to be human, we’ve all been fucked by various circumstances, ‘and you’re fucking me slowly / teasing me with your cock’. The persona in the poem wants the fuck, wants the attention, but the withholding of the action means … she’s fucked!

The very next poem, the second last of the collection, ‘Starting to learn’ opens with two lines that throw the whole series of poems into context:

It’s scary, but I don’t think I’ve ever loved before
But I’m starting to learn, what that might be like:

A bit of the poet’s background might help to explain these lines and why the collection needed to be released. Koraly, a Cypriot-Australian was married young as an expectation of her upbringing. The marriage didn’t work out and Koraly was released, somewhat disillusioned with the concept of love, but stronger with age and not prepared to take the directions of her immediate circle.

This is an important collection on a few counts. Although the poems might not appear to everyone’s tastes, either thematically, or because they don’t adhere to any strict, established form, they do serve poetry by illustrating the power of the form to release a person from boundaries, be they real, perceived or self-imposed. These are strong poems from a confident voice that literally demands to be heard.

Love and Fuck Poems is available at various bookshops as listed at Koraly Dimitriadis or you can buy online at Polyester. Koraly Dimitriadis will be featuring at Passionate Tongues for the Overload Poetry Festival on Monday 12 of September at 8pm. Koraly will also be performing at Polyester Bookshop in November with Ben John Smith.

Overload Poetry Festival starts this Friday and runs until Saturday 17 September.

Mark William Jackson

Mark William Jackson is a Sydney based writer whose work has appeared in various print and online journals. For more information see markwmjackson.wordpress.com

More by Mark William Jackson ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays