1995 ABC Radio Interview Darwin

Tony Collins - Darwin Poetry Festival

Tony Collins: Talking to Komninos and welcome to Darwin, Komninos.

Komninos: Thanks Tony!

Tony Collins: You are up here for the Poetry Festival, the Word and Breath Festival - how's it been?

Komninos: It's been great, great locations, good people, good times, good poetry.

Tony Collins: What is it about a Poetry Festival that when you come to a place like Darwin that you glean about the town or about the place?

Komninos: Well, poetry festivals in small places, smaller towns, I'm from Brisbane at the moment but I've lived in Sydney and Melbourne. The Launceston Poetry Festival, the Darwin Poetry Festival, more of the locals seem to get involved in the actual festival. They're more in the face, in your face, like they hold them at venues where people are likely to be who aren't necessarily interested. But in Melbourne and Sydney you go to Poetry Festival, it's the poets plus a few people who are in the know, in the scene; the general public never get to see it really or know that it's happening.

Tony Collins: So it's more like community poetry?

Komninos: Yeah, it's more like a community festival here - yeah!

Tony Collins: And argh, what's the sort of breadth of talent that you would come across at a standard poetry festival in regions like this?

Komninos: Well always you get from the most professional to the most amateur. The person who's just written a poem and been inspired by the fact that people are getting up and sharing their stuff in public and gets up and reads a very early effort. To people who have been doing it professionally for ten years like myself, like Terry Whitepitch (?? spelling) who came up and Herb Orton (?? spelling) whose sort of toured Europe reading from sections from his books. You know, you get very professional people right down to amateurs who just decide, "right I can do this - I'm going to do it!"

Tony Collins: What do people write about when they get inspired and take up the pen to paper like that?

Komninos: Well when you start to write you write about what you know most I suppose, you write about yourself first of all, yourself in relation to yourself. It's almost like writing letters to yourself, writing poetry at first I think. And once you've sort of worked out your relationship to yourself you start to work out your relationship to the people around you and so you start not writing, I and why so much, and you start writing you and them! And then, then you start to the sort of your relationship to the world and other communities, people in other communities, other political situations.

Tony Collins: There has been an intensive week of poetry performance in Darwin and you've seen a fair whack of that - what kind of themes are the Darwinites drawing on?

Komninos: Well, I've um, themes, as I said a lot of it is autobiographical about what's happening in peoples lives, how they are coping with situations with loss of love, with being mistreated, badly treated in relationships. There is that sort of level - very personal. And then there is sort of the themes of looking around and seeing what's wrong with the world. I mean a lot of poets start writing because they can't turn their eyes off or their senses off to what's happening around them. You know most of the time to keep ourselves going we've got to forget that there is people starving in the streets, sleeping in the streets and, you know, homeless and in need of societies sort of help. But, I think you know, like poets can't turn that off and they have to express it somehow and they do it through their writing. So it's basically observations of the world. I find a theme that's constantly emerging these days, always seems to be involved in it, no matter what people are talking about, is the environment, the environment is sort of this great thing that is unifying us all at the moment, or supposedly. Or we would like to believe is unifying us all at the moment is this, our love for the environment and the globe and it seems like you get a lot of, you know, environment associated issues.

Tony Collins: Coming up in poetry?

Komninos: Yeah, yeah at the moment. And also I think it's going another way to and you've got sort of techno issues coming into to - like the control of our lives by technology and the big brother sort of thing. Maybe sort of smoking too much drugs will get you paranoid and think everyone's after you! But, yeah, sort of, there the two sort of aspects of ourselves being part of a big environment, that we are all a part of, that's one sort of romantic notion really. The other side is that we are all powerless, or that all as individuals have got very little power in this huge technological age where everything, all the decisions are made for us and controlled by.

Tony Collins: So do you think poetry romanticizes that sort of growing environmental consciousness?

Komninos: Romanticises the consciousness. Well, I think its, you know like, ten years ago to write an environmental poem was an revolutionary thing no one was doing it. Now, even dishwashing detergents stick a green label on it so that you will buy it, everything comes with an environmental sticker on it saying its okay. So, sort of its become establishment and conservative and actually used against us. Like I was at a shopping centre recently and they introduced this ban on smoking in a smoking area - so they made it smoke free. You know, it all came with lovely pamphlets saying that we care about the, your environmental, your environment so we're gonna stop people smoking inside the shopping centre and stuff like that. But really, they wanted to move people on who were sitting there who were having a coffee, having a cigarette, talking, there was a real sort of community building up there. Maybe these people, right so some of them were unemployed, they had time during the day to sit there, but they didn't want them sitting there because they were taking up chairs that somebody else could come along and buy five time, you know fill that chair five times in the time they sat there and had a cigarette and a coffee. So, you know, you're getting the environment working against us now not - we are like ten years ago it was sort of, I think, poetry always reflects what's happening in a community. It's sort of like an emotional documentation of history on what's happening and you see these issues coming out first in poetry and then they become popular and then they actually start to be used against people.

Tony Collins: You've been doing performance poetry for quite a long time now, how do you keep doing it? Are you

Komninos: I don't, I'm burnt out!

Tony Collins: [laughter]

Komninos: It's very hard because you write these things and they're an emotional expression of yourself and then you start to perform them and people like them and they start to take on a different, they start to become not yours, they start to become the people to whom you are performing them to. Or, they become tools in your trade as a poet, as a professional worker, and so you get, get a detachment from the work and so, sometimes you just feel like, feel like you know a performing seal, just wind me up and send me out on stage. You've done the same thing so many times that it, that it you know, it's quite, you know, I've got, I couldn't relate to myself much like that anymore. I've done some changes this year, I've started working in other areas to find my stimulation and started using the computer a lot more to create poetry and to get into sort of interactive techno-literature.

Tony Collins: So you've, your own work at the moment is veering away from the performance side of things and [overtalking]

Komninos: Well, I started, I started to feel dissatisfied with myself as that thing, I was a performer you know, who there was certain expectations of. So I wanted, I needed some new direction in my own work, so I started, I had a little computer and I thought, you know this is, this could be used for more than just a sophisticated storage system and typewriter you know, there's got to be things you can do with it. So I just [end of recording].