fasH.Duke ll.

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On Friday the tgth of June t99z JasH. Duke, one of Australia's most iespected and influential Anarchist poets, died at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne of complicationssustainedby a broken leg when he slipped and fell. He was aged 52. Or, as he put it in one of his poems: I was born in t939 I was very young then but the times were very old He was known to many on stage, screenand radio asthe Dadaist with the bald head,long beardand stutter. Hearing JasDuke launch into a rendition of his'sound'poem'Dada!' wasan unforgettable experiencethat helped revolutionise our notions of what poetry (in Australia) could be like. His visual and concrete poetry (using letraset, comics and freehanddrawings)which appeared in magazines both here and overseas, and graced the covers of suchjournals his as Overland,were trademark.He was an avid contributor to exhibitions throughout the world and his interest in chess(up to too gamesper month bY was awesome. correspondence) His 'straight' poems, dealing with topicsasdiverseasAustralian (or world) economy,World Wars I and II, the Metropolitan Board of Works (where he z3ll Overland r27-r992

in renaissance Australia which eventually became known, throughout Australia, as Performance Poetry. He produced a magazine in t973 entitled Atlantis (of which zoocopiesweremade) all hand-drawn in multi-colored textacolors, defying and sneering at the authority of the "linear line" in poetry. His book Destiny lZood, published in 1978by Whole Earth remains one of ofAustralian literathe unread classics poems,brought ture. In i 987his selected out by Collective Effort Pressand entitled Poems of War and Peace was runner-up in the Victorian Premier's Award for Poetry and he was made one of the judges for the prize the following year. His championing of the workers' struggle and the role of the poet in the workers' ranks, giveshim a specialplace in the annals ofAustralian history; and for those of us who were lucky enough to have known or worked with him, he will always be rememberedfor his generosity, clarity of vision, support and Although JasDuke was encouragement. very much in the pubiic eye,he remained a very privateman, who scornedthe preworked as a draughtsman and later as tensions of the Academy and of the a researchofficer,for twenty years)and political establishment.He hated the characterslike Captain Nemo, created iconisation and deification of the rich a portrait of the man himselfwhich Ausand famous, and he (as he put it); tralian letters has yet to fully appreci"...never heard of anything being ate...or comprehend.'The Shit Poem' written about his work in the Sewerage attacked without wanting to defend it or anything being defended without Department, provoked the wrath of the wanting to attack it". He was a modest establishment when read on the ABC man throughout his life,and oncewrote and went on to becomea Performance poetry classicl a concretepoem that said: "Lets call it an averagelife". His last public poetry Jas H. Duke will be rememberedin reading was at St Vincent's Hospital Australia as one of the founders of the (ust hours beforehis death).Thalia told Poets'Union, PerformancePoetry, and the nurses(who were about to take him as one of the associateeditors of the magazinegz5, Australia'slargestpoetry away) to take care of"this man" because journal for WORKERS' poetry during he was one of Australia's greatest poets...andthe nurseaskedhim to recite the final years of the Fraser Governone of his poems. Although in great ment. pain, he musteredenough strength and In 1965Jas left Australia for Europe in his usual LOUD voice (so that all the to get an 'Education' (as most Ausother patients and nurses in thg ward tralians werewont to do) and he quickly became involved in the psychedelic- could hear) he read: hippy-anarchist-bohemiaof London Solidarity Explained and Brighton, working at Freedom Press,where he met the likes of CohenWhen the axe first came into Bendit (of May'68 Paris fame) and Jeff the forest Keen"with whom he made a number of the trees said to each other influential underground movies. While the handleis one of us. he overseas sought out and met the old men and women of the Dadaist and SurAt 5.3o pm Friday the tgth ofJune realist movements, and was a keen r99z while all the office workers were enthusiast of the work of the Russian going lidme Jas H. Duke clocked-off. Constructivists. R.I.P. Jas,R.I.P., may the soil they use His arrival back in Australia in t97z to cover you be light. signalled the revival of that 'poetry

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