KOMNINOS (Komninos Constantine Zervos)


(1950- ). born Richmond, Melbourne, of Greek:


parents, has an honours degree in science but since

1985, has devoted much of his life and energy to furthering performance poetry in Australia. His published works include The Komninos Manifesto (1985).

The Second Komninos Manifesto (1986), The Last Kom-

ninos Manifesto (1987), Wordsports (1989), High Street

Kew East (1990). Komninos: The Poet and His Poetry

(1991), On the Way to the Fridge for a Snack (1991), The

Baby Rap (1992) and The Venus of Marrickville (1993);


and the plays Sophisticated Souvtaki (1986) and Amnesty

Project (1990). His performances have taken place in

schools, libraries, prisons, factories, pubs. clubs, on

street corners and in writers' trains.


Komninos's poems tell of life as it is lived in everyday places - the work place, the pub, suburban homes, city streets - and reflect the situations people face in

family, with friends, enemies, and fellows. The poems are usually humorous or sad, often satirical and dramatic, mostly boisterous and lively. His instructions a rock and roll audience on how to appreciate poetry reveal the attitude of the performance poet to participation.


If you feel like sleeping, sleep

or chatting at ihc back of the crowd

if you feel like snoring, snore

but please don't snore too loud


if you feel like laughing, laugh


if you feel like shouting, shout


if you feel like clapping, clap


that's what poetry's all about.


Reactions to such performance have been mixed. Komninos's own comments indicate the difficulties facing the performance poet: 'most think you're a poof - they all think you're a bludger.' To offset audience scepticism the performance poet has to work harder than his more traditional counterpart, the published poet:


you have to make your words electric


to sizzle with energy and still be euphoric


to dabble and dribble in dialectic metaphoric


without too much boring didactic rhetoric


to spell out the truth and still have aesthetic


to bend words and change words 'til they're bnghtly



to capture the sounds at speeds supersonic


The performance poet's goal, finally, is


to free the words from their traditional prisons

of books and libraries and academic institutions,

to undress them, expose them to the whole


population .,.


to take the words off the page. give them wings,

and let them fly to new destinations.


Komninos's most effective poems include 'childhood in richmond' which gives glimpses of the sadness of a young boy growing up in a household where economic and social pressures were intense; 'bustalk', which catches the speech cadences and rhythms of

women gossiping on a bus; 'it's great to be mates with a koori', which is riotously rollicking and full of easy rhythm; 'i hate cars', which effectively displays the

verbal power of performance poetry.


The traditional poet's attitudc to performance poetry like Komninos's is ambivalent. Geoff Page, for example, sees value in the attempts of performance poets to win back some of poetry's earlier entertainment function which has been largely surrendered to

television, but he warns that in the process they risk underestimating the true depth of their art as poets. The rapid growth of performance poetry has led, however, to increased sales of books of poetry and to greater public awareness ofpoetry as entertainment. In 1993 Komninos won the $20 000 Ros Bower Memorial Award for outstanding achievement in Community Arts. Ros Bower was the first director of the

Australia Council's Community Arts Board.


The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature

second edition, 1994

William Wilde, Joy Hooton, Barry Andrews Editors

Oxford University Press:South Melbourne