The English Teachers’ Association [NSW] •
Issue 1March 2004 • www.englishteacher.com.au
m E T A p h o
While I Live , the first novel in The Ellie Chronicles by John
Fil texts: The Age of Innocence and The Truman Show
More resources for the Area Of Study (Journeys)
Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Cultural Values in Young Adult Fiction: Baily’s Bones, Bridge
An Interview with Seamus Heaney at his home in
Sir Richard Eyre’s BBC production of King Lear
Teen Romance Texts and the ‘Real’ Curriculum
The poetry of Peter Skrzyneckiand Komninos
mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page1
Ways of Living – Komninos A module for Standard English HSC
‘Ways of living’ encompasses so many aspects of
our contemporary society that in fact the rubric
challenges us with possibly too much to consider.
Komninos’ poetry for some seems difficult, for the
close analysis of the text can be challenging for the
Standard student who cannot grasp the impact of the
use of lower case, the lack of punctuation, the use of
free verse and the colloquial approach to language.
Much of the poet’s approach is uncommon and
foreign for some Standard students, but it can be
explained as a way that the poet challenges the
perception of its audience and of how a poet writes.
For the Standard cohort who hates the ‘boring’
conventions of poetry, this may be a good option, but
be prepared for the fear of there being little to work
with because of the poems length and the fact these
poems do not fit the conventions of ‘poetry’. In fact,
the poems hold a lot of connections with its audience.
The poet explores subjects that the audience can
relate to in many ways because they too, at some
time, have probably experienced it.
It is far better to approach the module with the rubric
than the text in this case (in the first instance).
Breaking down the rubric into the following key points
provides the direction for the following teaching and
The rubric states that students should consider:
• ways of living in contemporary society
• possibilities and choices for different ways
• recreations enjoyed shaped by personal,
social, historical and cultural contexts
• respond and compose to a range of texts
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• demonstrate the different ways of living which
are communicated and values
• examine features of texts
• knowledge, attitudes and beliefs relating to
ways of living
(English Stage 6, Prescriptions: Area of Study
Electives and Texts, HSC 2004 & 2005, p.15)
Depending on the strengths and/or weaknesses of
the cohort, there are two activities that could assist
Standard students gain a sound knowledge of the
‘different ways of living’ that have impacted on the
Australian community. These activities would focus
on the first three points of the broken rubric.
In groups research the ways of living in contemporary
society. Research each decade starting from the
1920’s (post World War I is a good starting point).
Areas of focus:
-housing and/or accomodation
Each group presents to the class, either in period
clothing or provide a piece from the period that
remains in the class through the duration of their
course and a visual cue to be later used as a study
artefact/text. A handout is to be submitted by each
group with primary evidence or secondary evidence
of the time. This can then be the starting point for
related materials for the unit of work (Link crosscurricular
work with Modern History students or ask
them to think back to their Stage 5 History core work).
Using the following table, the student interviews three
different people who have lived through three different
historical research that the have discovered.
Students are to write a report on each interviewee
and relate their personal recollections to the social,
historical and cultural possibilities and choices for
different ways of living.
These activities could also be used as assessment
task. If being used as assessment, it would work best
to consider the rubric points of responding and
composing in a range of texts, and demonstrating
the different ways of living and how they are
communicated and valued.
Outcomes 6, 8 and 9 could be used for these
Each activity requires the students to engage with
the focus of the rubric, ‘Ways Of Living’.
The activites have the cohort delves ‘hands on’ into
the focus assisting their general knowledge of the
module. This will assist their ability to respond to and
compose and demonstrate how different ways of
living are communicated and valued in the core texts
and the related materials that they have thus far. Once
the texts are studied and related materials are further
developed, the last two rubric points can be worked
The Text Komninos the poet
What is interesting about the study of this poet is the
ability for outcome 5 to be assessed during this
module – analysising the effect of technology and
medium on meaning. Komninos is a performance/
cyber poet. Resources are available on the Internet.
The poet has his own website where his poetry is
Far more useful in the classroom, is that each poem
set for study, excluding ‘consumer rap’ has an audio
reading by Komninos.These are accessible through
http://spokenword.blog-city.com. The links have been
provided next to the titles of the poems set for study
in this module. What becomes apparent after this
point is that the persona of the poem is often the
poet – but it should not be taken that it always is.
The poet moves through three stages of how
Melboune ‘lives’. There are three distinctive ways of
living for the city:
Tourism – the persona of the poem highlights several
dog on the ticker box/the schizophrenic city/ned kelly’s
Changing faces of a/the city – the persona explores
changes to suburbs it grew up in, “to find
cappuccino coffee comfort/ and the continuing
cavalcade of/ manicured madonnas marching the
streets/ pursued by battallions of italian stallions.”
Family links – the persona ends its visit discussing
its responses to its family, left behind after its
relocation, “to find myself answering the same
question/ to each family member I met/ yes I’m living
kids are growing/ and no it’s not time I cut my hair.”
Each key area can be defined by how the persona
changing face through population and the links
through family and friends, “coming home again/
driving through months and years and decades”.
Komninos looks forward to his
“my week has been/a blast into the past/ a fast drive
past”. It not only considers all the changes in the city
physical, it makes mention of how individuals change,
“to find the same faces in the same places in the
same spaces./ to find lovers that once sucked and
bit and kissed and licked/ sitting/ sipping tea politiely/
across café tables/ discussing art/ and their latest
That second, or last stanza, relates to the composer’s
mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page61
of its life in
to live in
The poem looks at a common discourse of rivalry
between states and their attractions. What seems
apparent is that each state has a ‘different way of
living’ that impacts on a person’s choice to remain
there. Each having its own appeal.
The following site provides the composer’s personal
to living and growing in
wordcircuits.com/gallery/childhood/index.html has an
incredible collage of images and spoken workds
telling the childhood of the poet.
‘karunda, october, 1992’
Travelling is a key part of many people’s lives, either
overseas or within their own boarders. Here
Komninos is considering the impact of tourism of
those who travel and tourism itself.
There is the contrast between the tourists and the
experience of the persona (which seems to be
undoubtedly Komninos), “ i am on this side of the
bamboo curtain./ the side that charge meals to their
rooms and pay with/ mastercard when they check
out./ on the other side, well it’s not really bamboo, it’s
lattice and hesian, on a sliding/ door set-up,
suspended from the roof.” The experience of the
traveller within its own boarders to those who have
travelled far - “that’s where the backpackers eat./ it’s
cheaper./ no tablecloths, no table service, no silver
cutlery and / napkins stuffed into wine glasses./ no
menus./ justa blackboard and a bain marie.” Consider
the ways in which Komninos is really challenging or
disregarding the experience of travelling according
to the conditions related to the experience.
The lay-back nature of the service, “maclean’s mouth
hasn’t been sighted for fifteen minutes./ a grolsch i
ordered./ fifteen minutes ago./ i get up and get it
myself from the bar./ it’s good./ in a flute glass./ cold./
the best way to drink beer./ the oysters arrive./
delicious!” What is the impact of using the label of
the beer – Grolsch (an import beer) than referring to
an Australian label.
There is then the distinct contrast of the tourist
experience and his own. The satiric tone is captured
as he mocks the tourists as they prance their bodies
“for the gallery of japanese tourists./ for the fellow
swimmers”. This soon changes as the persona
reminds itself that he too is a tourist, but a tourist in
his own country “and i’m feeling pretty happy with
myself in this chosen/aloness/treating my self/ on this
side of the bamboo curtain/ for a change.”
This poem reflects the interesting phenomeon of
‘reality travel programs’. The travel industry may be
feeling the pinch of political events, but it would seem
that travelling is supposed to impact on the ‘way you
live’. Through extensive travel as experiencing how
others live we are far more appreciative of our own
way of life, or through travelling within our own
borders, we are ‘changing the way’ we live.
This poem challenges perceptions that people have
of ‘lifestyles’ and the ways that they are seen or
believed or live. In this poem the contrast is made
through what the ‘locals’ perceive through
appearance. The persona is first thought to be a bikie,
then a truckie. It challenges the reader’s perceptions.
Why would it be so difficult for the locals at this scene
to believe that who they thought was a bikie or truckie
is now a poet.
In this rather brief poem, many questions can be
asked about what people think of others ‘ways of
living’. This is probably the opportune time to consider
related materials such as ‘Queer Eye for a Straight
Guy’ or ‘What NOT to Wear’.
It can also be the best time to introduce the Support
materials supplied by the Board of Studies ‘Workplace
and Community Texts’ – Applying for a Job.
In the eight lines of the poem, Komninos means to
explore the importance of ‘milestones’.
He uses ‘the girls’ to challenge social conventions of
beauty and to show, ironically that all the fuss and
hype leading to a special social event can be marred
and lost through the mistakes made later in the
It would seem that this is not just left in the hands of
‘the girls’ but all social groups.
For those that do not understand or share this
experience, there is a wonderful photo essay (many
thanks to Karen Stapleton for this link) of The
Gunnedah Ball. The photo essay can be found at
mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page62
‘eat’ is about the several ironies related to health and
beauty. When considering the focus of this module,
health and beauty relates to different ways of living
in several ways. There are so many different
perspectives about health and beauty that it is no
surprise that so many are getting mixed messages,
which is the message from this piece.
At the beginning of the poem, there are three very
prominent voices, that of the mother, the father and
the grandmother. It is obvious that this extended
family live together which is one different way of living
that can be discussed at this point.
The persona is encouraged to eat as a child so that
he can be healthy and strong, because he should be
appreciative of what he has as others didn’t and don’t
have the same opportunities. But this suddenly
changes, “and at thirteen years olf, the doctor said,
“for your weight/ you should be seven foot four”
The poem then moves to have three more prominent
voices, that of the mother, the father and the doctor
(the absence of the grandmother has several
connotations). The persona is then placed on a
plethora of diets “each new magazine mum would
rush out and buy it/ every new diet i was encouraged
to try it”.
The persona then discussing the ways in which this
dieting impacts on him “but i didn’t get thin i only got
depressed”. The taunts and teasing at school and
the synonyms used for the word ‘fat’. But it is in the
final movement of the poem that the persona makes
the mature realisation that “and the real person is
within your skin, behind the/ barriers and fears, and
that person is the one that counts, their thoughts/
and their ideas,”.
The beginning of this poem has a variety of fonts
using the word ‘Christmas’. All the different fonts can
be described as symbolic of the different ways
Christmas is spent universally. Mention should be
made that there is only one that is not in English or
Wingdings and that is the Greek, which is obviously
a reflection of the poet’s Greek-Australian heritage.
The first movement of the poem is very rhythmical,
most unlike many of the other pieces set for study.
The discussion is based on the concept of Christmas
me to see/ when we all live in harmony/ and
harmony’s a thing I find/ each year around about this
time/ when everyone across the nation/ joins in
The poem then moves to seven short four line stanzas
with the tag of ‘at christmas’. He the persona is
describing his family. His Christmas, the family, the
traditions, the noise, the festivities, the arguments
that we can all share in the understanding of.
The poem returns at the end to the celebration across
how everyone, everywhere and anywhere will be
sharing in some moment that is common to their
This poem is probably the most accessible in terms
of an understanding of the module. The poet is
describing the way ‘we’ live challenging us to look at
ourselves, and our society and challenge the ways
that we live.
What is a disposable world? “it’s a disposable world,
i’ve heard people say/ use it once and throw it away”.
The persona claims that he does not want to be
responsible for the “planet’s destruction”. Be it rubbish
or a credit world.
What the persona argues is ‘choice’. That the world
and the consumer is not at ransom and that there is
the right to choose. The persona challenges you as
the reader to be consumer ‘savvy’ – “don’t’ chase the
bargin, before you check the jargon” and challenges
you to “demand your rights, consumers UNITE!”.
Once again, there is the opportunity to use the Board
of Studies Support Materials ‘Workplace and
Community Texts’ – Being a Consumer.
Responding and Composing – just to get
Compose five diary enteries (over a six month period)
exploring how you feel about moving from one place
to another. This could be a town, a state or a country.
Include your observations about the changes that you
Respond to the following collage of images and
spoken words about the poets childhood – http://
‘karunda, october, 1992’
“It’s all about the lifestyle!”
In what ways are reality programs promoting a ‘way
of living’? How does the poetry of Komninos challenge
You are a backpacker. Compose three emails
mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page63
describing your adventures and how you feel you
have explored yourself through these travels. The
emails are to be sent to:
-a close friend
-your work mate/s
Compose a conversation between three distinctly
different personas. Write using their idioms and their
language approach (write as they ‘sound’).
Compose a proposal for your ‘ideal’ formal. This is to
presented to the your school Principal or Head and
Explore the ever growing debate about the eating
habits of children and adolescents. Class debate –
“To eat or not to eat, that is the question”
Recount your family Christmas family tradition.
Consider various magazines, newspapers and
television advertising. Decontruct the ways that the
pieces have been composed to sell their products.
Rounding up the Module
Press upon the students that they are required to
know ALL poems set for study as the Board of Studies
do claim the right to prescribe the text in the exam.
Reality/lifestyle programs (consider the key
presenters – what image is being sold, the areas of
focus for the show and their content)
-Queer Eye for a Straight Guy
-What NOT to Wear (beginning soon)
-opening pages of Maestro Peter Goldsworthy
-films ‘Wogboy’, ‘The Royal Tannenbaums’,
-advertising/ Internet pop ups