I’ve had a couple opportunities to tagteam guest lecture on contemporary poetry at an Introduction to Literature course at Murdoch University because of the kindness and sweetheartedness of Amber Fresh asking me along.
I’d already had concrete poetry on my mind and heart, going so far as writing some, and wish I had the wherewithal to publish a blank-paged book titled You write it, but that’s been done before (but I can’t remember who by or when. I think it was 1960s Czech concrete…).
Amber introduced me to PiO’s work and I got hooked. Then I found out PiO had launched Eric Dando’s Oink Oink Oink and it was all over.
PiO does much more than concrete. His birth certificate says he’s called Pangiotis Oustabasides and over time he’s also been called Peter Oustabasidis, P.O., Pi-O, π-O and PiO. He was three years old when his family migrated to Melbourne Australia from Greece in 1954. Read an extended biography, including notes about his sister and fellow poet Thalia (T.O.), at Komninos Zervos.
5 reasons why we need PiO in our lives
1. Writing with quasi-phonetic spelling of language-as-spoken, PiO drops us into migrant culture by ensuring our hearing the voice of the dialect and thereby feeling the displacement, the streets, the restaurants, the heat, the disaffected and the sensual.
him punch him
him punch him toohim hit him
him hit him 2, 3, 4,…
“Yoo no hit him!”
“Liv him alon wil-yum!”
him hit him more
“Eye punch yoo on noz!”
him punch him in stomaak
him kik him in lek
him skrech him in face
“Gon to Hospitaal!”
“Gon to Hospitaal!”
him en him
gon to Hospitaal.
2. PiO edited 925 – poetry magazine about work from 1978 to 1983, an anarchist experiment produced and distributed entirely by the poets appearing within the magazine.
3. PiO is on a whole ‘nother level with numerical language and symbology.
In his essay ‘Terribleness‘ (published by Paradoxism – anti-literary journal, 2000), before using number poems to grapple PiO kicks off with:
The mad rush to move information from the margins (of society) to the centers (of power) are predominantly done through numbers now. Once, we knew how to manipulate most if not all the numbers we needed, cos they were relatively small. We use functions like x, ÷, +, -, etc, then more complex functions such as integration, logs, slide-rules, hand-calculators, and finally computers. The end result seems to be that we have became increasingly disenfranchised from the seats of power and influence. To navigate our way through the complex labyrinth of numbers we mortals need sign-posts and monuments to help us recognize our location. Examples of such numbers are, “e”, “i”, and “pi”. These “symbols” short-cut the writing-out of all the digits in their proper order and allowed us to move and manipulate them as units or aggregates of quanta. So what do we call a number that is so large and complex it is impossible to find a formula for its sequence of digits? Writing out all the digits each time you want to refer to it seems inadequate and inefficient to us (if not to a computer (or another storage) technology). So do we let the number-crunching power of the computer do all the work, or do we invent our own strategies that can help us “own” those large numbers? If computers are good at holding-numbers, and we are good at being emotional then perhaps an ability to hold the digits of an array in an emotional complex that we (if not the computer) can read, will hold us in good stead. Perhaps the rise of numerology in ancient Greece was directly related to a complex society that was an emotional turmoil; paralleling our own culture directly.
4. PiO can write an everything poem and we can’t.
(an excerpt, ’cause it’s really, really long)I. - For Karen Lets go to that part of the brain controlling speech (discovered in 1852) and OPEN it like David Brewster did (in 1816) when he invented the KALEIDOSCOPE Hey! down that glass! hold that snitzel! drop that jug! unhand that woman! freeze that punch! this'll just take a moment (a "moment" in the ol' anglo-saxon unit of time "a f*ckin' minute & a ½" !) ... so stick aroun'
5. For PiO, speaking and listening are to be at the same time.
Poetic experience, like all experience, is double-barrelled. It is an appreciation as well as an expression. One speaks and one listens; one hears and one speaks. To experience ΠO’s poetry is to understand that the speaking and the listening are one. It is ourselves invading ourselves, with images, with sounds. The sounds themselves have magnitude. Are of the body, the breath, the life-force. “Say it out loud,” ΠO exclaims to his detractors when they confess they can see no meaning in what he writes. “Read it aloud!” – Billy Marshall-Stoneking, PiO – An Appreciation (Thylazine, 2002)
More PiO tidbits
Visual poems from 1998 (click ‘First poem’ at the bottom to see more)
The rime of the anarchist wog (Good Weekend, 1996)
Download an audio interview on Poetica
A sharp ear and eye for human life (Sydney Morning Herald, 2008)
Cordite interview (2006)
Rap poets’ society (Sydney Morning Herald, 2004)
A poet who draws on the ocker and migrant dialect (UoW Artists in Residence)
PiO writes introduction to Dada kampfen um Leben und Tod by Jas H. Duke
Big Numbers (for sale at Readings)