Examining your emotions

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Interview with Koraly Dimitriadis

A portrait of Koraly Dimitriadis by Kaliopi Malamas
Koraly Dimitriadis by Kaliopi Malamas

According to Koraly Dimitriadis, writers need to be bold in reflecting their own experiences. But plenty of writers struggle when it comes to writing with conviction about love and sex. In the lead-up to her pre-Valentine's Day workshop on Love and F**k Poetry, we asked Koraly for her tips on shedding societal expectations and writing about two of our most fundamental instincts.

Why is it so hard to write honestly about love and sex?

The emotions around love and sex can be quite raw and sometimes frightening, and many people tend to run away from these emotions rather than sit and examine them. To express them out on paper is like admitting to feelings you may not want to, and once the writing exists on the page it means anyone can read it, including the person you are writing about, and that opens you up to all sorts of scrutiny. The way I navigate this fear is that I tell myself I am a human just like everybody else and if I am feeling this way then chances are there are others out there who feel the same. If I cannot appease my own pain, then at least I can communicate with others out there so they feel understood. But of course many people are offended by my writing too. It's a double-edged sword. 

Writing about sex in poetry has often been the preserve of male poets. What tools can women and non-binary writers use to explore their sexuality?

Honesty is by far the best tool. Complete honesty, because I think when it comes to love and sex it’s hard to be honest about how you feel, and what happened. Particularly when it comes to sex and women there is a stigma around using certain rough sexual words – it’s kind of like we are expected to write sex like it’s flowers and hearts, when in reality it’s not, and if we write it any other way we are perceived as sluts or sex addicts. I know for example with Love and F**k Poems, many people just assumed I was writing about many different sexual experiences with different men when the poems were just about one man.

Is Australian literary culture too conservative?

I think it is, particularly when it comes to outspoken women who not only write controversially but who also critique the culture, and I know this because I have lived it and I have paid a price for being outspoken. We are meant to be good girls. But this is more a reflection of society rather than the literary landscape itself. However, I do think the literary culture is more than a few steps behind in reflecting Australian society. Writers are supposed to be the ones that pave the way for a better future. We are the revolutionaries and the thinkers. It needs to start with us. 

Your book Love and F**k Poems began as a self-published zine and went on to be a bestseller in poetry. Why do you think it resonated so strongly with readers, and what’s the best feedback you’ve received?

It has surprised me. I think it is my brutal honesty that resonated with readers. I find it especially difficult in everyday life, which is why it’s easier for me to be honest in writing. I have received so much feedback and lovely letters from people about my book, particularly from women in Cyprus and Greece when it was translated. But I also get terribly sleazy messages from men too! The restlessness I have as a writer is always soothed when women tell me my writing helps them feel understood. A man in his forties contacted me once and said he hadn’t read a book since he was 18 and he just read mine and loved it. A train driver also once wrote me a note on a train incident report and sent it to me!

As well as being a poet, you are a film-maker, performer and playwright, and you write opinion pieces and commentary. Do these various forms serve different creative purposes, or do you find there’s a relationship between them?

I don’t see them as separate. I feel as if they all feed into one another to achieve my objective to communicate with people. When I have a creative idea choosing the right medium for it is important. Choosing the right medium is part of my creative expression and process.

About Koraly Dimitriadis

Koraly Dimitriadis is a writer of poetry, prose, short-stories and non-fiction who explores feminism, racism, sexuality and culture, while challenging the traditional norms of poetry through literature, performance, film and theatre. She is a freelance opinion writer for major media publications and has written for Daily Life, SBS, Rendezview, The Saturday Paper and many more. She is the author of the controversial poetry book 'Love and F**k Poems', which she initially self-published as a zine with English and Greek translation rights sold into Europe. Koraly has received Australia Council funding, has a diploma in professional writing and editing from RMIT, and a double degree in Business and Computing. She is an actor, performer, film and theatre maker.