Koraly Dimitriadis vs Ben John Smith
There's a theory that art must be confronting in ord er to be genuinely experienced. Like an evening news bulletin indulging a regular diet of death and destruction to attract and maintain its audience, art has frequently come wrapped up in an abrasive political covering. Ben John Smith, publisher of poetry online zine Horror Sleaze Trash , loves his confrontational poetic rhetoric. He's not sure, however, if art needs to be confronting to be heard.
"Not necessarily, but it sure as shit helps get an initial interest," Smith says. Author Koraly Dimitriadis, herself no stranger to a bit of challenging literature with her collection of Love And Fuck Poems, agrees. "I write lots of other things that aren't confronting," she says. "I think art has to be honest, that's what connects with people, and I never sugar coat, I always tell it like it is."
This month Dimitriadis and Smith come together for an evening of dialogue, discussion, debate and dialectic at Polyester Books on Brunswick Street. The writers' friendship came about after Dimitriadis' poems sparked a debate on the hazy line between art and exploitation. "Leading up to the launch of my poems, I posted an article on Overland about poetry and pornography and if a line exists between the two and it created a huge discussion amongst the academics," Dimitriadis says. "Some were defending us while others were saying that what we write isn't poetry and that Ben and his website is sexist because it depicts naked women. After the launch, Ben and I spoke about doing a photo for Overland, and his website, where the woman is in power," she says.
Dimitriadis had embraced writing in the aftermath of the birth of her first child and break-up of her marriage. Surrounded by cultural gender expectations and constructs, Dimitriadis put her challenging thoughts to paper. "Women from my culture who are themselves, repressed, will gossip behind my back and smile to my face. But there are many within my culture who see it as interesting, and aren't sure how to take it," Dimitriadis says. "But the majority of women email me or come up to my at my gigs and say, 'Thank you for writing this! This is me!' and when that happens my heart does somersaults because I feel like I am giving a voice to women who are too afraid to say the things I'm saying. I am not afraid of what the women in my culture say. I believe women should be allowed to say whatever the hell they want," she says.
Smith's indulgence of poetry stemmed from a meeting while traveling in Europe. Impressed with Smith's initial literary efforts, a fellow traveler encouraged him to read Charles Bukowski. "I bought The Most Beautiful Woman In Town, picked up a bottle and ended up with gastritis and four collections of poetry about my dick. I hear he has that effect on people," Smith laughs.
Smith's website (horrorsleazetrash.com) became a repository of confronting literary observation and visual images. Once again, the Internet was being used to challenge sexual taboos. "I think speaking openly about any thing helps break down taboos," Smith says. "Acting on them even more so. Sex is so feared in Australia. We would welcome abeheading before a headjob. Something is seriously wrong with that," he says.
Dimitriadis recognises that the line between erotic and pornography is a difficult one to draw. "I know that some porno is created in ways where the woman is treated badly, but I don't think that is all porn," she says. "I take the view of sexually liberal feminism. There are pornos where the women dominate too, and women should be free to explore all aspects ofsexuality, if they want to be dominated or be the dominator. Woman should be free to push the boundaries in sex, and if they like it rough, that is okay too. Rape, violence is wrong but I don't believe it has anything to do with the porno industry. Sex is sex, it's roleplaying and people, men and women, get turned on by different things," Dimiatridis says.
When Dimiatridis launched her Love And Fuck Poems in July this year, Smith joined her for what Dimiatridis describes as "a poetry war". "I would say and poem and he would respond with a poem and the audience decides on who is the winner," Dimitriadis explains. The concept proved so fulfilling it's being replicated at Polyester Books in November. "It isn't just poem for poem, we try and go with what we are feeling on the day," Dimiatridis says. "For example at my launch Ben was in a love mood but I was thinking men are all players, and he was throwing love poems at me but I won of course because I didn't fall for his puppy-dog love crap. I always win, Ben is a softie," she laughs.
Smith hopes the upcoming event will be the start of a regularseries of literary debates. "Me and Koarly have been hiding out for a while, I enjoy her company. We have done a few readings before and I would like to see Polyester become a hub for the more low poetry scene. Something like the Greenwich Village, without all the heroin," Smith laughs. "Ben and I, we both agree that poetry doesn't have to be boring," Dimiatridis says. "It can be something that connects with audience intimately, and we are trying to find venues to host such events that wouldn't usually do something like this. We want to take the poetry to the people," she says.
Smith hopes the audience will appreciate the quality of the debate, and find enough to take away and ponder. "I hope the audience are drunk and happy people," Smith says. "If they take something away, that's cool," Smith says. "Just don't come up to me after the show and tell me that I 'should do this' or 'you shouldn't write that line' - pfft, get the fuck outta here, will ya. You don't shit on the table after a meal to show the chef what he could have done!" he laughs.
Koraly Dimitriadis vs Ben John Smith will be held at Polyester Books Fitzroy on Friday November 11 from 7.30pm.